Tips for Managing a Work From Home Team

A day at the office doesn’t mean what it used to. With remote working growing 115 percent since 2008, working from home is an increasingly popular trend. With today’s technological developments, it’s no longer necessary for businesses to have all their staff in one office to be successful. As companies across various fields recognize this, opportunities for work from home policies and entirely remote teams are producing amazing results. At the rate this policy is spreading, we can surely anticipate employees seeking out jobs that offer work from home options and eventually come to expect it in all office jobs. Though proven successful time and time again, success from remote teams comes with a few necessities. Whether you’re a part of this trend at present, or just starting to explore the idea, we’re sharing some top tips for effectively managing an optimized work from home team.

COMMUNICATION

Working remotely can be isolating at times. Without the ability to grab coffee with a co-worker or opportunity to easily collaborate with team members, it’s important for managers to compensate for these lackings. Providing a channel for employees to chat both formally and informally encourages communication for work related topics and serves as sort of a virtual water cooler; keeping a feeling of social connection.

Whether your entire company works from home or just a handful of employees, open communication is essential for success. Choosing one system for any business communications and enforcing its use is recommended. This way all remote employees are clear on what tools should be used when joining a meeting, collaborating on a project, or reaching out to you with questions. Some options we suggest are Google Hangouts, Slack, and Skype. All of these are easily accessible and provide your employees the connection they need. Whichever tool you choose however, there should be some guidelines set in place. For instance, having clear set “office hours” lets team members know when is appropriate to contact someone and when all employees must be available through chat. If you have members of your team working in different time zones, this is especially important. A best practice for ensuring everyone has the support they need during working hours is to make sure you have an overlapping period when everyone is working and organize any relevant meetings during this time.

STRUCTURE

A universally expected perk of work from home policies are flexible work hours. As there’s no office to get ready for or commute to, remote employees like having the option to start work early in the day or late into the night. It’s important to allow a degree of flexibility in these cases but equally important to hold remote employees to the same responsibility and structure of your in-house staff. For reasons such as productivity tracking and need for shared working hours, a well structured work management process is imperative.

Unlike in an office environment, you can’t see who is coming in each day or catch up with someone in the elevator about what they’re working on. So developing a tracking system is crucial for understanding what is going on with each team member, what exactly they’re working on, and how long each person worked. KPI trackers and collaborative spaces like Podio, are great for keeping tabs on production and making sure flex hours aren’t being misused.

To keep work from home teams in sync with each other and any in-office employees, creating a meeting rhythm is recommended. The following meeting frequency is suggested at minimum:

  • Daily meetings with each team to quickly connect and fill each other in on what
    everyones working on and any obstacles their facing.
  • Weekly meetings between team leaders and each person on their team to increase
    efficiency, eliminating any issues or back and forth emailing that would typically take
    place during the week.
  • Weekly all-hands meeting for the entire company, to recognize goals and achievements and reinstate the feeling that you’re all part of a team.

TEAM BUILDING

Right in line with the need for strong communication, creating the feeling of a unified team among remote and in-office employees is critical. When working alone every day it can feel as though you’re on a one-man ship and achievements may go unnoticed. As a manager it is your responsibility to reinforce the team feeling and remind your remote employees that not only are they contributing value to the company’s common goal; they are a truly valuable asset to the teams success in achieving goals. Weekly all-hands Skype meetings are a great way to build this environment as everyone gets a chance to connect and put faces to team members they may not physically work with.

If finances allow it, bringing your entire team together at least once a year is highly recommended. Giving remote and in-office employees the chance to mingle and connect on a personal level can provide great value to business endeavors going forward. Whether it be an holiday party or a team-building activity, giving your employees the chance to engage and build trust with one another can have positive impact on collaboration and strongly reinforce the unified team feeling. When it comes time for remote employees to go back to work, they will feel more comfortable in their role and be more likely to reach out to employees they may not have before. Remember, people are wired to connect with others and the more your employees fill this need at work the happier they’ll be in their position

When properly used, working from home can be a great benefit to your company production and your employees satisfaction. As it’s still a fairly new system and each team will operate differently, success with work from home will come as a learning process, likely with trial and error. We hope these tips help make your managerial duties a little easier and your team a little happier!

Maddie Davis
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