People Management in Remote Mode

Posted On Wednesday, 16 September 2020 21:27

The world has acquired the taste for remote work, and many companies are following this format after the quarantine. But the new format also provokes new problems. We will analyze exactly what managers may face when working with a team remotely and how to organize the most efficient and comfortable work.

The global quarantine caused by COVID-19 has taken the trend of telecommuting to a new level. Before the pandemic, the desire to work from home only belonged to regular employees, but now this initiative is supported by the companies’ managers as well. However, the new format has set new challenges for the managers. In this article, PMs from Andersen will highlight the main problems of remote people management and consider ways to solve them.

Why this is important

Many companies decided to maintain the telecommuting format even after the end of the lockdown. The world has acquired a taste for working remotely, even though this format was triggered by negative factors. In most cases, it is more convenient for employees to work from home; this fact is confirmed by the survey data. Companies, in turn, have become aware of some other benefits of telecommuting, such as the opportunity to avoid the expense of renting offices, the opportunity to hire specialists around the world, etc.

However, managing a remote team in the same way as when they are in the office is no longer possible. If you don’t take the change in format seriously and won’t adapt your managing methods to the new conditions, communication with the team will worsen, thus causing work inefficiency. In order to avoid the pitfalls of remote management and enjoy all its advantages, a team leader needs to understand current problems and be able to solve them.

Problems of the remote work format

When working from home, employees will sooner or later face the following problems:

1. Communication problems. When talking via messages and voice calls (i.e. without a web camera), employees sometimes misunderstand each other.
2. Loneliness. Many employees miss office conversations with their colleagues, especially if they are on friendly terms with members of their teams.
3. Problems with “disconnecting” from work. When there is no division between office and home, it’s more difficult to switch to your private life.
4. Degradation. For many people, the necessity to go to the office is the main motivation to take care of their appearance. Therefore, when not meeting anyone for weeks, they won’t see any reason to look good.

What a manager should do

There are many methods that can help you maintain communication and a working climate within your team. Some of them are simple and obvious, and some of them could be a discovery even for experienced managers. 

1. Communicate with your team more, and don’t forget to hold daily calls.
2. Use video chats when possible - this will partially compensate for the absence of in-person communication.
3. Talk to each team member individually at least once or twice per week to discuss issues that are important for them.
4. Always be available. You should find a couple of minutes to talk to an employee even if they contact you after working hours. If the issue is not critical, you can postpone the discussion to the next day, but you need to show you have taken the information into account. Ignoring the team during your non-working time will have an adverse impact on the employees’ loyalty.
5. Use emojis and gifs - they help to convey emotions when communicating via text.
6. Plan the work schedule in accordance with the locations of all team members. This is especially recommended for group calls. Sometimes a manager will even have to organize two separate daily calls if gathering the whole team together at the same time is impossible without disturbing someone's comfort.
7. Provide employees with all the necessary equipment for working conveniently.
8. Provide employees with all the necessary equipment for working comfortably.
9. Support initiatives of the team members, even if their ideas are not relevant at the moment. This at least shows they care about the company and the project.
10. Focus not on the demonstration of activity but on the result.
11. Establish regular reporting. It should not be a burden for employees; on the contrary, this helps each team member to see what their colleagues are doing.
12. Specify tasks and expectations. All employees need to clearly understand what they are supposed to do. The manager should make sure team members really understand their tasks, without waiting for them to ask questions if something is not clear. Simply because they might not do so and perform the task as they think proper.
13. Enhance communication between your team and other employees. For example, you can invite the team members to join a call with other specialists, and vice versa.
14. Involve the team in solving common problems and organize brainstorming sessions.
15. Allocate tasks properly so that each specialist can focus on their priorities instead of fragmenting their energy.
16. Organize informal communication via Skype or Zoom; for example, online coffee breaks with the team members.
17. Small gifts and bonuses, for example, branded merch.

The listed methods are not universal, and some of them might not work for particular teams or companies. But each PM can surely find something useful and may even have already been applying some of them.

Manager’s personal traits

The right actions matter, but let’s not forget about the personal traits of a manager:

1. Trust the team. If a manager has reasons to distrust an employee, they should not keep this employee on their team at all. Having accepted a person into your working squad, you should give them some freedom of action and avoid checking on their each and every step.
2. Passion for work. Without this passion, you won’t be able to inspire your team.
3. Ability to express gratitude. Yes, employees get paid for their job, but they are glad to hear that they are really doing well and receive personalized positive feedback.
4. Willingness to defend the interests of employees in front of top managers.
5. Confidence in the decisions you make. Employees may not always agree with the manager's decisions, and you should not only be able to explain your motivation but also be able to insist on your position, even if the employee is against it for subjective reasons.
6. Ability to admit mistakes. When it turns out your employee was right and you were wrong, the worst option is to persist out of the fear of losing authority. This is how authority will actually be lost.

Everyone has a different attitude to changes - some love them, some don't. But if there is a change for the better, it is unlikely that many people will mind. It is up to the manager to ensure that each team member works from home at least as well as they did in the office. And the team will return the favor with high-quality and timely completed tasks. :)

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