If you manage telecommuting employees, your role as a team leader is vastly different from a manager working with others in a physical workspace. The usual goals of meeting deadlines, exceeding clients’ expectations, and maintaining cohesiveness among the team are still the same but how you manage these tasks is incredibly different.
To avoid some of the most common problems experienced by leaders who manage remote teams, it’s important to be aware of these issues and prepare to confront them before they arise or at least before they pass the point of no return:
Unclear and Infrequent Communication
Are some of your employees or freelancers working in different timezones? Different countries? If so, clear communication is paramount to avoiding missed deadlines and confusion for team members just starting their workday while their colleagues are off to bed.
To prevent communication issues from cropping up, establish a clear protocol for phone, video conference, email and chat communications. Open yourself up to feedback from your employees in case something just isn’t working and consider setting up an easily modifiable meetings calendar, if you haven’t already.
Beyond communication problems, issues related to disorganization seem particularly common among remotely managed teams because you can’t always ask someone a question right away. Sometimes, you’ll have to wait several hours for a response or deal with other concerns like poor online connectivity from a crucial member of the team.
To avoid going off the rails when it comes to productive organizational strategies, it’s important to schedule regular check-ins with your team (perhaps 1-2 times per week or monthly). This will ensure the team is never forgetting a task, rushing through assignments, or slipping up on important QA procedures.
Demanding 24/7 Connectivity
To prevent communication problems and stay as organized as possible, some managers go to the other extreme of the spectrum by demanding their teams stay connected to their phones and/or emails on a near-24/7 basis. This simply isn’t feasible or fair, even if this strategy could resolve problems related to delayed responses from team members working from different time zones.
Alternatively, you should create deadlines based on days instead of specific times and ask your teams to check their email inboxes when they start their workday and just before they finish up at the end of the day to make sure there aren’t any fires to extinguish before they go offline for the evening.
Micromanaging Everyone and Refusing to Delegate
Perhaps you don’t demand constant connectivity from your remote employees, but you still struggle with micromanaging everything they do because you’re not physically there to make sure they’re doing their jobs 100% to your standards. Micromanaging may seem like a great way to hustle employees to boost their productivity rates, but this usually backfires by driving down their satisfaction with their jobs, which leads to higher turnover rates.
Avoid micromanaging your remote team members by increasing the number of tasks you’re willing to delegate to them and waiting for results to come in before checking in on them. If the end results are inadequate, then have a discussion with that employee to figure out ways they can improve their performance instead of preemptively assuming they’ll fail to meet your standards and criticizing them every step of the way.
Employee Disengagement and Dissatisfaction
It’s hard to feel close and connected to your colleagues when you don’t see their faces or hear their voices on a regular basis. To overcome issues related to interpersonal ambivalence among your remote team, create opportunities for them to bond from afar. This might include fun end-of-week emails with inspirational quotes, recaps of notable achievements from the past week, and words of encouragement. You could also start recognizing your most outstanding employees/freelancers on a weekly/monthly basis and include a personal bio in your email so others can get to know more about their coworkers.