Managing a remote team requires a different approach than managing in-office employees. Without being face-to-face with your workers, you’ll have to be creative in order to effectively manage your team. Whether you’ve been a remote manager for years or you’re a remote rookie, take a look at these eight remote team management mistakes to avoid.
8 Remote Team Management Mistakes to Avoid:
1. You never check in.
Out of sight, out of mind can unfortunately be all too true in a remote work environment. Without passing by each other’s desks or running into coworkers in the break room, it can sometimes be easy to forget to schedule time to connect.
Having very independent workers is great, but they still need to hear from their manager, even if it’s a simple “hello.” Be sure to check in at least weekly to see how things are going. This can be a more formal meeting with a set date and time, or it can be a casual instant message or email.
2. You micromanage.
On the flip side, some remote managers go the opposite route and micromanage. Without seeing their employees in a physical office, some managers may feel the need to know exactly what’s happening at all times in order to feel like things are getting done—and also have a sense of control.
Unfortunately, constantly checking in for updates will only frustrate workers and lead to stress all around. Think about how often you’re talking to your employees. Do you tend to worry that things aren’t getting done—even when they are? Try to keep track of how often you check in, and more importantly, why. If tasks are being completed on time, your workers are self-reliant, and they communicate any issues with you, then there might not be a need to check in so much.
3. You don’t take time zones into consideration.
One of the biggest benefits of a remote workforce is that you get to hire talent from truly anywhere on earth. That said, if your remote team members are all located in different states or countries, you need to be cognizant of time zones. Just because a 4:00 p.m. meeting works for you doesn’t mean it will work for your employees who are two (or even ten) hours later. Be flexible and understand that someone may be gone for the day even though you’re still working. Meeting times may have to be adjusted and emails may have to wait until it works for everyone.
4. You don’t help to build team camaraderie.
A big remote team management mistake is not building team camaraderie. Remote employees can feel isolated working by themselves in their home offices—even the most introverted ones. Bridge the gap by facilitating chitchat during meetings and even celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, births, and other major milestones. Encourage team members who live near each other to get together for lunch (and have the company cover the bill). Share funny pictures with your team. Laughter goes a long way in creating a feeling of unity.
5. You rely too much on email.
Words on a screen can get old after awhile. If you never find yourself hearing your employees’ voices or seeing their faces, consider changing up your strategy. Using voice or video chats for meetings can help remind you that your employees are real people. Emotion, tone, and expression come out in voice and video—email and instant message can’t always compare. So while emails and IMs might be great for quicker communication, venture out from behind your computer and smartphone every once in a while and make the time to speak with your workers, too.
6. You don’t walk the walk.
Sure, your company might be remote and allow workers free reign over their schedules. But if you’re clocking in at 9:00 a.m. and punching out at 5:00 p.m., your staffers might be reluctant to take advantage of their remote worker status and try to keep a more traditional workday schedule, too. While that might not seem like a biggie, the problem with maintaining a traditional work schedule is that it defeats the true purpose of having a remote workforce. After all, the key to work-life balance is to have flexibility built into their schedules so that they can get work done and still show up for the rest of their lives, too.
7. You don’t try to connect with your workers personally.
Although you might feel that you’re a proactive communicator with your colleagues, it’s important to take a step back and review what you’re actually saying. Do you communicate solely about work and deadlines, or do you try to personalize the conversation a bit more? Employees naturally want to like (and be liked) by their bosses. One way to achieve that is to find out what is happening in your workers’ lives outside of the home office. What are their interests and passions? How are their kids liking the new school year? If you want to build a better bond with your workers (and subsequently bring out the best in them), take the time to get to know them, not just for what they bring to the table at your company, but who they truly are as people, too.
8. You don’t update them as much as you should.
Events can unfold at breakneck speed when you’re running a company. Everything from recent new hires to corporate acquisitions to meeting Q2 financial goals can happen in the blink of an eye. And with a team dispersed around the country (or world), it can be easy to forget to keep your team updated on the latest goings-on. Thing is, not doing so can make your workers feel disconnected from the company, which can potentially lead to dissatisfaction, poor work performance, and even some employees quitting. Since transparency in the remote workplace is crucial, make an effort to keep your team clued in on the latest news, and in particular, how it might affect them. Feeling informed will make them feel valued and feel like they matter.
This post was originally published July 26, 2017. It was updated on November 6, 2018, with three additional remote team management mistakes to avoid.
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