According to Fundera, over 3.7 million people perform at least half of their work remotely.
With telecommuting becoming more popular than ever, there’s a good chance that members are not sharing the same location.
How can you keep them all well connected? By using cloud solutions?
Here are a few practical ways.
Your First Step: Prepare for The Move to The Cloud
Businesses can benefit from allowing their employees to telecommute.
A common mistake is to jump right into cloud-based operations without doing any homework first. Managing remote team members will be much easier when you have made the preparations first.
Once your cloud solutions are ready, you can follow these tips to make communication easier:
#1 Maintain a Consistent Set of Standards
Start everyone off on the right foot by implementing a clear, consistent set of standards for everyone.
Develop a standard operating procedure easy for everyone to follow and ensure your rules are consistent across the board. It will be much easier to keep the members of your team focused.
Besides setting the standards, you must also make everyone aware of them. You can do this through online training sessions and by making sure the same materials are available to everyone.
#2 Promote an Awareness of The Written Word
When people work remotely, they communicate primarily through written words. The problem with this is that emails, memos, and other forms of written communication can easily be misconstrued.
With written words, you can’t hear people’s tone of voice or read their body language. So one person might interpret something one way, while someone else would view it completely differently.
Stress to your employees the importance of choosing their words carefully. Emphasize the need to read and re-read written correspondence before hitting the “send” button.
Finally, come up with some best practices for resolving any disputes that may arise over a misinterpretation of written communication.
#3 Encourage Relationship Building
In a brick-and-mortar setting, employees can share jokes and hang out around the water cooler. This isn’t always possible when people are not in the same physical location.
It’s harder for people to get to know one another and develop the relationships that would spur good teamwork.
This means that getting people to connect with one another on a personal level will require creativity.
If your workers are close enough, you could schedule periodic in-person meetings or training sessions to help them get to know each other.
When they are scattered in some distance away, this might not be possible. In that case, you may need to put an emphasis on phone calls rather than texting and video conferences rather than emails. You could encourage them to connect via social media as well.
Try not to over-schedule your employee’s time. That way, they will be relaxed when making phone calls, and might even feel comfortable enough to begin making small talk.
#4 Manage Well But Do Not Micromanage
Your actions as a manager will largely determine how members of your team interact with one another. When you maintain an online presence, your workers are less likely to retreat into their shells.
What you do not want to do however is micromanage. As in a physical office, micromanaging brings down morale. People will not build relationships if they have low morale or constantly hear others grumble about how things are going.
Knowing how much to communicate and when is tricky, but you must strike the right balance.
This could require experimenting on your part. You might also find that some employees have more questions and therefore need to hear from you more often. If so, you will need to tweak your management style accordingly.
#5 Give Employees The Right Tools
Ensure everyone has access to all the tools they need to get the job done. This could be through the use of project management software, a shared drive folder, or other online tools.
Consider adding a cloud-based scheduling and management tool to help everyone keep track of deadlines, individual tasks, etc.
The right tools won’t do much good if employees do not understand how to use them.
This could require you to put on remote training sessions from time to time. You might even have a coach walk an employee through certain software via Skype or chat.
#6 Delegate Tasks Effectively
You wouldn’t try to do everything yourself at a brick-and-mortar location. Yet delegating is something many managers struggle with when their employees telecommute.
Remember that to work efficiently, you must delegate tasks from time to time.
Start with smaller jobs and then gradually give more responsibility to people who have proven themselves responsible. Be sure to follow up so that those you have delegated to know they are being held accountable.
Do not forget to give positive feedback whenever someone successfully accomplishes what you have assigned.
#7 Establish a Clear Chain
Team projects could easily get delayed if an individual experiences a snag.
Who will handle questions about the project or assist with computer problems?
What happens if they encounter an emergency and cannot complete their assigned task or meet deadlines?
Be sure your employees know who to call and what to do if they encounter a problem. Ideally, this should be someone other than yourself such as a supervisor or IT manager.
Individuals should contact you only as a last resort whenever they cannot resolve the issue any other way.
Keep in mind that some people would rather struggle with certain things because they do not wish to bother others. This means you really need to emphasize the importance of contacting those in the chain rather than trying to resolve the issue personally.
#8 Encourage Some Friendly Competition
Nothing will motivate your employees like a little friendly competition. Have your workers compete against one another for top sales, most new leads, or highest production.
Establish a leader board to let everyone know how they are doing and encourage them to accomplish more.
You should do more than just encourage competition. See that you reward your employees for a job well done.
Perhaps you could announce the winners during one of your video conferences or online meetings. Show everyone the prize, whether it is a monetary bonus, gift card, or some merchandise.
When everyone sees that the reward is real, they’ll be more likely to work toward it next time. Just make sure that everyone else gets a smaller boost too, otherwise, your employees might treat each other as rivals and nothing more.
Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.