If you are like many entrepreneurs and small business owners, with your morning coffee brewing, the orchestral warm up of your day begins. The coffee pot crescendos into the sound of your laptop logging in, with traffic increasing in speed right outside your window, and cars whipping down the street to work. Soon, the coffee buzzes in completion while your phone starts ringing a lovely tune and the voices of your staff fill the office.
What may have started as an elegant, and organised orchestra was tantamount into a circus, where phone calls, emails, and texts are juggled. This is what comes of running staff remotely, if you are not careful about your time management.
But the orchestra can remain elegant; it does not need to transpire into a circus. If you have staff that you must run remotely full time or part time while you travel for work, there are many new technologies that can make this process simpler.
For example, there is new software that allows you to “see” the problems your team is facing or monitor their progress by viewing a screenshot of their computer on yours. This is of course just one of the many resources available.
It all begins with knowing your team. It is best to hold meetings that set expectations, determine objectives, and identify the tasks and the responsibilities that each of your team members will burden during the start of a new project. Obviously a face-to-face meeting is ideal, but if you cannot achieve that you can always use a video conferencing system.
It is imperative that everyone on your team know their responsibilities and their role. If they don’t, you won’t be able to manage them as well.
One way that you can keep track of your team and their activity on any given project is to request daily activity reports. These reports can help you determine whether a particular time line is adequate or if it should be altered. You can request that these reports be sent in the form of an email at the end of their work day, or at the end of yours. You can use software that automatically generated status/activity reports at the end of each day, emailed to the manager.
In order to make sure that project standards are met, you need to make sure appropriate feedback is given and that your team enjoys guidelines for future projects. It is critical that you provide individual feedback and group feedback in order to drive consistency in your workplace.
E-mails might not give you the desired results, so you might be better off scheduling a weekly video chat with your team members, wherein you have one-on-one sessions to talk about progress. You can also conduct communication via a phone call or an instant chat. This is also a great way to stay on top of staff throughout your project. Being logged in to an instant chat feature does not mean you have to talk to your staff all day, and vice versa. That would impede productivity. But being available whenever your schedule permits it will keep the door to communication being open and allow your team to contact you with questions or concerns.
You should also rotate different tasks between your team members. You can rotate one assignment to all of your staff members in order to gauge their capabilities. You can review the different results and figure out who is best suited for what projects in the long term.
If possible, you should make on-site visits every two months or so if you have a remote team. This is important because it shows the team that you are an active part of the company and that you are aware of what is happening. It also gives you the chance to consolidate your relationship with the team and to meet new employees. These visits can have a long lasting impact on the team and increase performance.
One big mistake that some people make when remotely managing a team is to over-manage the team. Calling a meeting every two hours to ask for a status update loses a lot of valuable time and interferes with productivity. It will have a damaging effect on your team. You have to show a remote team that you trust their capabilities and you will let them do the job for which they were hired. You wouldn’t call meetings for a staff working in your office every two hours, so when you are working remotely don’t do it either. But on that note, you should offer regular support when needed. Make sure that you are there for your team remotely, even if it is not as often as it would be were you on-site. Something is better than nothing. Knowing that you are there to provide your expertise and support will greatly encourage remote staff.
When you can’t be there physically, use employee monitoring tools to keep track of key performance indicators and productive hours. You don’t want to neglect this and find out weeks later that your team has been wasting precious time. Instead, set key performance indicators for your team and allocate the time frame in which it needs to be completed. This will keep your team organized and improve overall performance.
Even if some of your employees are not on-site they still need their recognition. They still want to hear you talk about their accomplishments and analyze their mistakes with them. You should congratulate any remote staff on objectives they reached and offer a clear picture as to where they stand in the company.
Finally, it is imperative that while you are not present you have a leader among your team. Even if your staff is just 4 employees, there should be a leader who remains the strongest link between you and your remote staff. Having a leader can ensure that all of your messages are delivered correctly and that work is completed effectively.
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