A Guide for Remote Managers: Seven Strategies to Improve Remote Management

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

The concepts of management and leadership have consistently evolved throughout the decades. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, "managers" were concerned with output at local factories. There wasn't a focus on creating a cohesive and healthy "corporate culture." As life transitioned from the factory to the emerging offices in the 20th century, the intersection between optimization, management, and engineering became the focal point.

This situation evolved into a focus on "knowledge work," which began to put more of an emphasis on engagement and worker motivation. From the 1950s to now, management has evolved into putting more of an emphasis on the workers themselves.

Then around the turn of the millennium, something happened. The expansion of high-speed internet made it possible for individuals not to have to work in a traditional office. They could now work from wherever they were the most productive. This situation has continued into the 2010s and is poised to be a more significant situation in the 2020s. Now, traditional office managers have turned into "remote managers" who are now tasked with leading professionals who might be on another continent.

Much of the general understanding of management is tied to employees being present in the office. Visibility is intertwined with leadership. Nevertheless, the era of the remote manager is upon us, and professionals now have to change their approach to how they lead. In short, over the last five decades, we have seen a transition from hierarchal top-down management give way to a more diplomatic and decentralized approach. This situation has set the stage for remote work, which has brought on the need for remote managers.

What is a Remote Manager?

A remote manager is someone responsible for managing team members who are not in the same physical location. Understanding what a remote manager is and what they do is critical to successfully handling this emerging work arrangement. Remote work favors this recent turn toward decentralized leadership.

Remote managers are now faced with:

· Not having the luxury to stop at someone's desk to ask a quick question.

· Employees who are not consistently reminded—or have to interact with —traditional office hierarchy or the nuances of office politics.

This scenario shakes up the role of the remote manager. They have to account for the lack of direct interaction while still keeping employees motivated, engaged, and productive.

Shauna, the founder of Operate Remote, guides companies in establishing effective and productive remote work environments. She discusses her takeaways concerning the growing role of the remote manager position.

From a leadership perspective, it's common for remote managers to find it difficult to manage remote teams compared to teams in an office environment. Leading groups and people remotely is very different in that you have to create relationships, build trust, and create a transparent and supportive environment for everyone to thrive—all over a computer screen.

The Current Role of Remote Managers

From 2005 to 2017, remote work has grown by 159 percent. Companies large and small are embracing location-independence. In fact, according to SHRM, more employers are offering telecommuting as an employee benefit. This shift means that the role of the remote manager will be even more crucial as we move into the rest of the decade.

How is this changing the role of the office manager? Remote managers now have to:

  • Find ways to mimic in-office happenings and ensure they occur outside of the office.

  • Focus more on results and outcomes than "time spent at the office."

  • Find ways to increase trust and camaraderie, outside of seeing one another face-to-face.

  • Onboard new employees, and account for a potential "remote work" learning curve. There may have to be training on how your company uniquely works remotely.

  • Use software tools to manage communication, collaboration, and productivity.

Nathan and Connor, owners of the freelance platform, Freeeup, discuss using the right tools to increase remote worker motivation:

Motivation. When you're in an office, you can be a hands-on leader more easily. You can pop over to people's desks, hold meetings together, etc. When running a remote team, you can still do all of those things, but it becomes more difficult. That's why having great communication channels set up is so important.

Managing workers is overwhelming enough, but having to do it across potential time zones can seem like an impossible challenge. Technology, building trust, and the optimization of productivity are at the heart of remote manager positions.

Whether you have actively assumed a remote manager position, or have been thrust into the role without planning to, you can succeed as a remote manager.

However, before you get started, it is a good idea to walk into this emerging scenario with a plan. You aren't striving for perfection, but having a remote management strategy, helps you prepare for the ups and downs of managing remote workers.

Seven Remote Management Strategies Remote Workers Should Use:

What is a remote manager? What role do they play? What are the hallmarks of a remote manager position? Many of these questions can be answered by understanding the remote management strategies that can help remote managers excel.

Handling this emerging form of work can be a challenge. However, the seven strategies below can be a guide to making the management of remote workers more straightforward.

You have goals, and these remote management strategies can help you meet them.

Set Expectations During the Interview

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

For this first strategy, we are going to start with the first step in this process: the interview. This step is one of the initial times that you get to interact with the potential candidate, and understand whether they are the best fit for the remote work position. This time is a critical one.

Therefore, it is crucial that you are upfront about how your company works remotely. Discuss any expected work times, PTO, the company culture, and how you provide support. Also, if you are managing a hybrid remote team, then it is even more essential that you detail your remote management style. Remote workers want to know that they can trust they will face the same treatment as their in-office counterparts. So, be sure to address your dedication to supporting remote workers.

This discussion could include the following:

  • How they can receive technical support.
  • Assurance that in-office counterparts can quickly get in touch with remote workers, and vice versa.
  • Take the time to emphasize the commitment to offering remote work long-term.
  • Talk about the qualities that will make remote workers successful at your company.

Kristi, a CEO and remote team leader, brings home one of the major reasons well-thought-out interview questions are necessary for remote work positions:

Finding people who are motivated and driven to get incredibly high-quality work done on deadline is a biggie. Everyone wants to work remotely, but not all pros are wired to be productive outside of an office environment—or at the very least, many will require a ramping-up period.

The interview should allow you to find who is ready to be remote, and who may need more experience before working for you. Use the conversation to iron out your company's remote work expectations, and reveal the role you will play in supporting them in your remote manager position.

Effectively Onboard Your New Employees

Did you know that great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82 percent? Also, a negative onboarding process results in new hires being twice as likely to look for other opportunities.

In short, onboarding is incredibly pivotal to getting your remote work employees off to the right start. Don't take for granted that your new remote employees understand the complexities of remote work. Discuss the potential challenges, and how you and your team plan to help them overcome them.

For example, what is your plan for helping them better connect with their other colleagues? Where can they find passwords and onboarding documentation? Plan out how you will provide what they need, and make it easy for them to get it.

This step is also an excellent time to outline what your role will be as a remote manager. Discuss how you run meetings, availability expectations, and how they can get in touch with you. Define what your role will be in a remote manager position, and convey this during the onboarding process.

Measure the Right Things

This situation should have been the case all along. However, unfortunately, our culture has become fixated on the time someone spends in an office. Consequently, a remote manager has to shift the focus.

Again, you are no longer concerned with how long someone is working, or if someone is effectively logged into Slack or Google Hangouts all day. You want to know if they are getting the job done and meeting company goals. This step means you have to set the right measurements in place. You want to monitor your business objectives, while also keeping an eye on how remote work aligns with this. So, you will want to use metrics that allow you to track:

  • Productivity
  • The quality of work and the number of mistakes
  • How well everyone works together as a team
  • Whether all employees—whether remote or not—are meeting your business' objectives.

It is also a great idea to consistently seek feedback from your employees. Develop pulse surveys that you can quickly disperse to everyone to see how they are feeling about their function and the overall work atmosphere in real-time.

As many savvy entrepreneurs have said throughout the years, you cannot improve what you don't measure. So, make a point to develop metrics that allow you to see if there are specific things about the remote work structure that need to be altered.

Invite Your Employees to Become Mentors and Ambassadors

Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash

Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash

You don't have to be the only guiding light for new and established team members. In fact, it's better if you aren't. Research has found that mentorship from co-workers in the workplace increases engagement and reduces turnover. Employees need to have a community, especially if they are working away from the office.

Allowing other employees to help onboard and be a system of support for employees frees you up to be in a position to manage. So, make a point to ask senior-level and experienced employees to be mentors. It can significantly benefit you to establish other points of contact for your remote employees.

Always Invest in Training

It is crucial that you offer training to employees. However, this entry is not just about them. It's about you. Not only do your new remote workers need training, but so do you. Fifteen percent of remote managers have not received any training. One of the main reasons for this could be that remote management is still new. However, you are not going to know everything there is to know about managing remote employees.

So, here are a few resources we recommend that you check out:

These resources can offer everything from training to podcasts and other resources regarding remote management. They can guide you on how to ensure your company is best supporting remote workers.

Overlap Meetings Across Time Zones

Time zones can be a real pain to navigate in a remote manager position. How do you ensure that everyone can meet at a reasonable time? Do you alternate times to make things equal? If you have workers from all over the world, you are going to need to develop meeting times that compliment as many of your workers as possible. If you have workers in India and the United States, you may want to settle on 8:00 AM for standup meetings. This choice will change depending on where your workers are.

Also, don't be afraid to try out different times to see if your team prefers one over another. A huge part of understanding what a remote manager is, involves coming to terms with their roles as facilitators. This step is one significant way someone in a remote manager position can facilitate efficiency.

Be Agile

Remote work is forever changing. As new software tools emerge, and individuals find more ways to be creative in how they work, you should always be nimble. This scenario also means that experts and advocates are continually finding out new things about the field. While it is important to have structure, don't be so tied to the structure that you forget to be agile. Allowing for flexibility enables you to change what isn't working and expanding on what does.

Also, keep your ear to the ground by reading articles, joining online communities (ex. #remotework on Twitter), and connecting with thought leaders on the topics of remote management, remote manager training, and remote manager positions. Again, you don't have to switch up your formula for how you manage your employees. Nevertheless, you always want to be prepared to shift priorities if your approach to remote management needs to change.

So, what is a remote manager? They are someone who can take the traditional concepts of management theory and mold them into modern ideas that can be applied to this new era of work. It is not an easy job, leading people never is. However, these remote management strategies can help you develop a plan to not only support remote workers but also to ensure their work moves your company forward.

A Few Additional Tips:

  • Make an effort to meet with your team, but also make time to meet with remote workers individually.

  • Develop a solid remote work policy

  • Conduct regular surveys and polls for feedback. Here are a few software solutions you can use to take consistent surveys:

  • Be sure to have tools that do the following:

    • Allows for instant communication. Ex. Slack, Google Hangouts

    • Enables everyone to work on a project or document at the same time. Ex. Google Docs, Office Online

    • Makes it easy for team members to track their time. Bonus: a tool that easily transfers their time into payroll. Ex. Harvest, Toggl

    • Offers effective video conferencing. Ex. Skype, Zoom

    • Allows for task delegation and project management Ex. Trello, Asana

Vivek, entrepreneur, and owner of Pragli discusses how necessary tools are to bringing the structure of the traditional office to remote work:

Managers have to be especially diligent about the tools and processes that they introduce to make sure that teammates feel like they have an outlet to bond. Hosting office hours and happy hours virtually can be a great way to make people feel more connected.

You Can Rock Your Next Remote Manager Position

Your goal isn't to be perfect, so much as it is to be effective. Again, remote work is new, which makes remote management uncharted territory. You can overcome the challenges of managing a remote team with an openness to learning and receiving feedback.

However, for remote management to truly thrive, much of today's thinking about leadership has to change so that work isn't based on presence but more so on results. As leaders continue to improve their stance on this, remote management will continue to move forward.

For more insight on remote management, check out some helpful responses from our interviewees.

If you are searching for a remote job that allows you to flex your remote management skills, check out our job board.

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Posted on February 10, 2020
in Uncategorized

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