With increasingly sophisticated technology comes increasingly fluid workplaces. According to Benefits Canada, nearly half of Canadian employees work from outside their employer’s primary office for half the week or more. Of those employees, 39% say they “mostly” work from home, and 11% say they work exclusively from home. In fact, many companies are now able to have fully remote teams operating in other cities, provinces and even countries.
For employees, this is great. It has proven benefits in increasing productivity and reducing stress. But for employers, it means adapting to a new way of working that requires them to be more hands-off and less involved in their team’s moment-to-moment activities.
So, how can employers still effectively track the performance of remote teams without micromanaging? The keys are trust and open communication. In fact, employees at high-trusting organizations experience 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement and 40% less burnout.
Luckily, it’s easier to do than you might think. Here are 7 key tips to help you track the performance of your remote team without micromanaging.
1. Encourage Transparency
The first step in building trust in remote teams is to promote transparency. As a leader, that starts with you. You need to open up, get to know your team and let them get to know you as well. Encourage them to discuss projects and share their opinions. Get them involved in all aspects of the business and ensure you have shared the company vision and objectives in order to make them feel engaged. And it might seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to over-communicate and encourages them to do the same – whether it’s about them stepping out for an appointment or if it involves a project or deadline.
2. Hold Regular Meetings
Since you don’t see each other all that often, it’s important to hold regular meetings. And unless you absolutely have to, do your best not to cancel them. In these meetings, focus on progress, plans, and problems. Update on projects in motion, what’s coming next, and any roadblocks. And unlike traditional meetings that are more focused on cutting to the chase, don’t spare on the chit chat in virtual meetings. This will allow the team to get to know each other better and will go a long way in helping build a rapport. These meetings give you visibility into where your team stands without coming across as overbearing.
3. Use Technology to Your Advantage
There is a ton of amazing technology at your disposal to help alleviate the perceived distance between you and your remote team. Utilize video call and screen-sharing technology like Zoom for meetings, and internal chat apps like Slack for quick messages and small talk. And don’t be afraid to keep a casual banter going either. This will help bridge the gap of the chit-chat you would usually have with employees in a traditional office setting. This consistent communication allows you to stay more regularly up to speed with your team without nagging them for updates.
4. Use a Tracking Tool
While building trust is important, you can also safeguard yourself using a remote team tracking tool without being overtly invasive. From Google+ Hangouts to Timely and Worksnaps, there are a ton of great options available for any need and level of tracking.
5. Set Clear Expectations Early On
Having a clear and transparent conversation about expectations from the outset is integral to managing a successful remote team. In doing so, you build a framework within which everybody on the team operates, and being clear with employees will keep them focused on working towards a common goal. Ensure you discuss and agree on everything from set work hours, availability, communication systems, timely meetings, key projects and deadlines, scheduled meetings and email response times.
6. Focus on the Results
One of the most important things for remote team managers is to focus on results as their gauge of the team’s success. It isn’t always intuitive to wrap your mind around the fact that “bums in seats” isn’t necessarily an accurate measure of output. In traditional office environments, it’s easy to see your team at their desks from 9-to-5 and assume they’re being productive – even though it’s not necessarily the case. With remote teams, you won’t have that direct visibility. So, focus on work quality, deadlines, and output as the measures for success of your remote team, and focus less on thinking about where your team is and what they’re doing
7. Utilize Team Building
If it’s an option, consider quarterly, biannual or annual get-togethers with your team for team building activities. While it might seem like a big expense, it seems a lot more worthwhile when you consider that disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $500 billion annually.
As the workforce transitions increasingly towards remote jobs and virtual teams, leaders will find themselves needing to adapt their management tactics. But in doing so, they just might find themselves with happier and more successful teams.