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Remote Management: A Detailed Guide and 8 Best PracticesReading time 13 minutes
Many organizations all around the world have started to adopt remote working. Some of them have been doing it for quite some time, but for others, it’s pretty new. Employees whose companies have recently implemented remote work have a lot of questions on their minds.
Most of these questions are from managers who have to take care of tasks, track, and collaborate with their team. So, in this blog, I’ll be talking about what remote management entails and the advantages and challenges of remote working. I’ll then go over some best practices for remote working.
Let me start by explaining what remote management is.
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What Is Remote Management?
You’ll need to know what remote working is before you can understand remote management, so let’s start with that. Remote working is when employees can work from wherever they choose—they don’t have to go to the company’s workplace. This is also known as “working from home.”
If you’re a team lead or a manager in a company that lets its employees work remotely, then you’ll have to manage your team remotely as well. Managing a team that’s working remotely is called “remote management.” Remote management includes tracking your team’s progress with respect to tasks, defining tasks for each team member, solving any issues your team members have, and answering team members’ queries.
Every practice has its pros and cons. A company I was at implemented remote working, and opinions varied about the remote working and management culture. Some employees thought it was a good idea, and others thought it would make it difficult to complete tasks with good quality. To give you an idea of why there was a difference of opinion, let me tell you a few reasons why it was appreciated—and why it wasn’t.
Advantages of Remote Management
A lot of employees liked the idea of remote working, which led to high morale. And when there is high morale to do a task, management becomes easy. I’m going to address a few advantages of remote management.
Efficiency and Productivity
When you’re working from home, you’re working in your comfort zone. You have the flexibility to sit anywhere and work as you want. You also have the flexibility to take breaks. Working in comfort results in increased efficiency and productivity. This will help you do your management job better.
When employees are productive and efficient, management becomes easy. You don’t have to keep pushing them to complete their work on time—nor do you have to worry too much about the quality of work. So, when you work from home, you also have the comfort that leads to your productivity, and managing your team is easy because they’re also working more efficiently.
On-site or on-floor work limits the people who’d want to work with you to those who are local. This might result in you not being able to work with a person who’s really good at their job because they’re situated in some other part of the world. For example, imagine that your workplace is based out of New York, and there’s a candidate with amazing skills who’s located somewhere in Australia. It would be very unlikely that this candidate would move to New York to work with you.
But when your company allows remote working, you can hire any person from anywhere around the world. And when you hire experienced and skilled people, you don’t have to put in more effort to manage them. This makes management easy and also increases the team’s overall performance.
Remote working saves a lot of money for the organization. If you allow remote working, you’ll save money on utilities like electricity and internet and provisions like stocking a pantry or coffee bar. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s a profit for the organization, but how is it an advantage for remote management?”
Well, every team has a budget. If your team is saving money by working remotely, as a manager you can use those funds for something else. You can provide extra paid software that would help your team members. You can give them a bonus—and we both know that happy employees are efficient and productive employees.
Most employees who don’t work remotely must commute to work every day. In metropolitan cities, it can take a couple of hours to commute to and from the workplace. When you’re working remotely, you save this time. You can use this extra time to learn more about efficient management.
As a manager, you can schedule workshops for your team to help them improve their skills. This will increase your team’s skills and morale, and they’ll be able to work better.
Remote management has its own perks, but it also comes with a lot of challenges. I’m going to address some of the main problems you’ll likely encounter when remotely managing a team.
Challenges in Remote Management
Although employees like working remotely, most managers don’t prefer it. This is because managing a remote team is more difficult than managing an on-floor team. Let me give you a few examples.
Varied Time Zones
Your remote team might have people working from different time zones. If your team is spread around the world, it creates problems in scheduling meetings and discussions because you might not find a time that everybody is comfortable with.
Varying time zones add delays in the process, which requires that multiple people work on it. Suppose you have an emergency that needs to be addressed by one of your team members. If this team member is in a different time zone and it’s the middle of the night there, the emergency might not be addressed immediately. Obviously, you can call and wake up this person and ask them to work on it—but you can’t do that time and again.
Tracking tasks of remotely working teams becomes a difficult task because you have to get individual updates. Lack of a proper process for tracking tasks results in a lot of time loss to the manager. You also might not be able to obtain the actual status of the task, which would result in having a non-real-time status.
If your project requires regular discussion or collaboration, then remote working might lead to communication gaps. Whenever you want to explain something to your team, you’ll have to schedule a call or host a webinar. This by itself is a time-consuming task. Even if you had an unexpected task get assigned to your team, if you’re all in one place, you could just walk up to the team and get things done. But this isn’t possible while working remotely.
When you’re connected via webinars, calls, or screen-sharing sessions, you might not be able to convey your thoughts as easily as you could by using a pen and paper. In most cases, explaining things to remote members becomes difficult and can end up creating confusion.
If you’re working for a company that deals with sensitive or confidential data, security becomes a major concern. If you have people working remotely, there’s a good chance you could experience data or security breaches. Taking care of security as a manager is difficult, and you’ll be responsible if any security incident stems from your team.
Now that you understand how remote management can be challenging, let me show you how to make it easy.
Remote Management Best Practices
Here, I’ll list some best practices that you, as a remote manager, can adopt to excel at your job.
Choose the Right Tools
The first and most important thing to do is to choose the right set of tools for your task. This includes tools for meetings, scrums, webinars, and daily tasks. Every task needs different tools based on the requirements. Have a discussion with your team to come up with the best possible tool set.
You can list the tasks that your team has to do and then decide on which tool would best suit your requirements. Choosing the right set of tools smooths the tasks, and when you have a mutual understanding while choosing them, collaboration becomes easy.
If your team isn’t used to working remotely, you might have to start using some new tools. And if this includes a complicated tool, you should set up a session to explain to your team how to use it. A tool used incorrectly isn’t any better than a tool that’s unused. So it’s better to spend some time creating awareness among your team about the tools rather than leaving them open to mistakes.
Define Clear Tasks
The next thing to take care of to ensure that things run smoothly while your team is working remotely is to define clear tasks. You should ensure that the tasks you assign to your team aren’t ambiguous or open-ended. Make sure that the tasks are specific and to the point. This will help the team work with proper goals and reduce the chance of going off track.
If your project requires collaborative work, divide the tasks among the members and clearly explain the scope of work to each member of the team. If necessary, create documentation or guides that your members can refer to, which is a good practice when you have a long-term project.
Encourage Flexible Working
The fun of working remotely is enjoying the comfort zone. Comfort results in a good mood, and working with a good mood results in productive and efficient output. So don’t take that away from your team. Don’t restrict them from taking breaks while working, expect them to be on video calls throughout the day, or keep checking up on them frequently.
Let them work flexibly. All that matters is getting the work done—not how they’re doing it. And when I say it doesn’t matter “how they’re doing it,” I don’t mean the quality—I mean their approach. Until and unless the work’s not getting done on time, it doesn’t matter how they’re doing it.
You might also have people working from different time zones. Make sure to consider their availability and flexibility before scheduling any meetings or giving them a task that needs immediate action.
Trust Your Employees
Most managers are concerned about whether their team members will get the job done with integrity and on time. All I can say is trust your team and give them a chance to prove that they can complete the task on time even while working remotely.
Stay in Touch
You might have set the plan for a month and defined the tasks for each member for the next few weeks. But that doesn’t mean you have to come back to them after a few weeks. You should regularly talk to your members and discuss how things are going.
One common practice followed is to have a scrum meeting where, in just a few minutes, you can talk to your whole team so that you’re all in sync.
It’s important to track your team members’ tasks to know where your project is heading. You have to create a proper process to track tasks. You shouldn’t keep calling each member of the team and asking for the status of their task. That’s not a good practice for managers, and besides, it would frustrate your employees.
Based on your requirements, create a tracking process or use a task tracking tool so that you have real-time (or at least the most recent) status of the tasks and the overall progress of the project. You can use tools like Jira or Trello for tracking. Or, go even simpler and use Google Sheets with sensible columns and rows to track the progress.
Similar to how a manager faces problems and bottlenecks while remotely managing a team, your employees will also have problems while remotely working. To make sure those problems are solved, seek regular feedback. Ask your team how the processes and guidelines implemented for remote work are affecting them.
If there’s a work-related or project-related problem, you can discuss it when the whole team is around. There are two benefits to this. One is that brainstorming with the team could lead to a better solution. The other benefit is that if anybody else is facing the same issue, you’ll be able to address it at the same time.
If any employee is facing any problem, make it a priority to solve that issue or at least come up with a temporary fix. That way, it won’t stop the overall process, but will keep the whole project running with minimal delay.
When working remotely, it’s important that you think about everything that you and your team will require. You have to think about what devices and resources your team will need, along with access to certain assets of the company. Make sure you provide all the necessary resources to your team well in advance so that there’s no delay in the process due to dependencies.
It’s not just about providing resources. Thinking ahead also implies creating the process for the project. You have to think long term and design the process in such a way that you make the best use of your resources and avoid any internal dependencies that would delay the process.
Remote working is a culture that many organizations are bringing into effect. It’s always good to be prepared for what’s new or trending. Although remote working has its own set of pros and cons, if you follow proper practices, you can make the best of it. As mentioned in this post, you can follow best practices to begin with. It goes without saying that you’ll have to come up with new remote-management approaches for custom use cases.
To make the whole remote management process easy for you, I’d suggest you use Plutora. Plutora helps you deliver high-quality software by providing a wide set of functionalities. It has various tools to track the process and have clear visibility of the process.
It also provides a Value stream management platform that helps you identify and optimize the waste in your process. The hybrid test environment management helps you in various integrations. And finally, Plutora’s power visualization tools give you a clear representation of raw data. You can register here to get a free demo.