Many organisations today have teams that work entirely outside the office.
The idea behind this is to increase productivity, but as a remote manager, you need to keep a firm hand on the reins, or your team could become less productive than they were before you freed them from their desks.
The key to managing remotely is to maintain good lines of communication.
Previously, a manager would have to call everyone in on a particular day for catch-up meetings, strategy planning and the inevitable paperwork. This effectively meant a day of no sales.
An employee out in the field today can communicate with the office in a variety of ways, eliminating the need for regular face-to-face contact.
VoIP phone technology has seen the cost of calls plummet to a fraction of that charged by traditional carriers and many VoIP providers offer business plans in which calls between company mobiles and dedicated office numbers are free.
You can now also conduct video conference calls on your phone. Team members simply log into a common link and talk face-to-face with you and each other, wherever they happen to be.
So if you can stay in contact almost as easily as being face-to-face, is managing remotely really any different from a normal team manager’s role?
The answer is yes, very much so.
It’s all very well to have great communication tools, but what matters more is the kind of communication that is taking place between you and your team.
A remote manager has to be ‘more’ of everything that a normal team manager would be, to compensate for not being physically on the ground.
A remote manager really needs to be ‘dialled in’ to the entire team. You need to be regularly in touch with each team member, using a variety of communication methods, but primarily the telephone or Skype.
You should ideally talk to them once in the morning to confirm what’s on for their day and once in the evening to see how they went. As long as this is done in a brief, informal manner, it won’t be construed as interference.
If your remote team is spread out across the country, there may be differences in time zones. A remote manager needs to make themselves available for longer hours to accommodate every team member’s situation.
You also need to have a ‘virtual open-door policy’, reinforcing the message that you are always contactable (within reason).
You should try to visit each team member at their particular location as often as possible. This shows you have respect for what they are doing and also helps them to relate to you on a more human level, rather than just being a voice at the other end of the phone.
Where at all possible, you should also attempt to get the whole team together, even if it’s only once a year, so that they have the opportunity to form bonds and to feel like they are part of a team.
A good remote manager always has their finger on the pulse of the latest technology. Anything that could bring you and your team closer together should be assessed for possible use, including online chat forums like Google Hangouts, or or web applications to assist in productivity like Asana or Yammer.
When there are problems within a remote team, a good manager will be able to tell, not from what they hear, but from what they don’t hear.
If a team member is communicating less and less, you can assume there is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
Having regular phone or online team forums, where you discuss issues and problems together, can help reveal clues when something like this is brewing.
Because you don’t see them on a daily basis, much of the work your team does goes unappreciated. So when milestones are achieved and goals met, you need to show your appreciation in spades.
If it’s a case of going above and beyond by one team member, personally call and thank them but be sure to do so in front of the team as well.
Thank those who take the time to help other team members and offer small rewards and incentives to those who excel in any way. It works in an office situation and it’s particularly important when people work remotely, as they can start to feel isolated and unappreciated without an office support network around them.
Many of the skills required by a normal team manager also apply in a remote situation. The main difference here is, you need to be larger than life in every possible way, to make your presence felt and to overcome the tyranny of distance.
Best Companies To Work For