Many things have changed post the pandemic. Remote working, which was seen as a luxury/ benefit, has become a necessity now. Employees across the world have been remotely working for the past one year to date, and it is going to remain the same for the upcoming months. Challenges in remote team management have also increased since remote working started. Managers use frequent zoom calls, phone calls, and WhatsApp group updates to communicate with their employees and streamline task allotment.
Remote team management has become a new skill set for a project manager in recent times. Adapting to a remote management situation is a challenge in its ways. All the workplace tasks remain the same, along with an additional amount of communication with the team. A manager is responsible for making the workplace a better place to work by ensuring that the team is productive, independent, flexible, and happy. Ensuring that the team is productive in the home environment and making them meet deliverables despite distraction is challenging.
Let’s see how you can train your remote employees, to ensure maximum productivity effectively.
Challenges Faced in Remote Team Management
On-Boarding New Employees
New employees could connect directly with experienced peers and colleagues who know the trade and get help from them while facing roadblocks in the workplace. Passive knowledge sharing helps as an ice breaker to employees who are trying to learn something new. In a remote environment, they are unable to establish friendly relationships and get genuine help. More than half of learning in an organization is through informal learning. Hence, this has become a challenge to employees in understanding new tasks and taking them forward.
Absence of Face-To-Face Interaction
Lack of face-to-face interaction is a concern faced by both managers and employees in recent times. Since they cannot see the team or monitor their productivity, managers worry that employees don’t work as efficiently as they used to work in an office environment. This situation is something that is out of their hands. On the other hand, employees struggle with their work due to reduced access to the manager’s support while facing issues. Hence it takes a toll on productivity.
Reaching Information Is Time Consuming
Providing information to the team has become challenging, and for the team to access the information has become time-consuming. Remote workers are unable to extract project-related information from their teammates. They need to call their co-workers for each obstacle, which is a loss of their productive time. This increase in time duration to complete tasks pulls them down.
Unable to Understand Other Person’s Situation
This situation holds for personal information too, which leads to interpersonal issues. The team will be unable to understand the person’s situation on the other side in remote working. The other person might be having their lunch while he receives endless calls asking for information. Or the teammate would be under immense stress to complete the work, but each time a call might distract him, reducing his productivity and adding to his stress. But in both cases, the caller might be oblivious of what the employee might be going through.
For the past year, employees have missed informal social interaction in the workplace. The coffee area discussions, lunchtime discussions, team building activities, team bonding, are all reduced to a formal zoom call nowadays, with each team member rushing to meet his deliverables. With time, loneliness sets in, and the employees feel detached from the organization, and their sense of belonging to the organization is affected.
Taking up an online PMP certification will enhance your interpersonal and team skills as the PMBOK® guide gives an excellent weightage to interpersonal and team skills.
Distractions at Home
Distractions are the topmost challenge every remote team agrees with. For remote team management, Mangers have to encourage their team to have a dedicated distraction-free workspace. The employees are juggling between parenting and working owing to the closure of schools and daycares. Unexpected parenting responsibilities and distractions are typical in remote working. Equipping the team to handle them and manage their time to send the deliverables is the challenge that managers face.
Tips for More Effective Remote Employee Training
Provide Communication Tools
Provide proper communication tools for the teams to stay connected. They are using the latest tools like email, cloud storage, zoom calling, screen sharing, instant messaging, etc., to ensure a consistent communication flow among your team. Providing the right communication tools is an effective solution to avoid any bottlenecks or confusion in the team. Seamless communication is an essential part of remote team management.
The most significant thing you can do when you remotely manage a team is to set your expectation straight to the team. Setting expectation encompasses everything from working time, project scheduling, and other timelines clearly. Make it as one mass call in the morning and then go forward to connecting one-on-one to discuss specific expectations. At the same time, it is necessary to think from their shoes while setting an expectation. They might be struggling with the remote situation as you are. Do not set unrealistic deadlines as this might hinder productivity.
It is critical to connecting one on one with your team to understand any roadblocks and help them sail through them. It’s not always that someone will get back to you with the issues they face. Provide a bridge for your employees to discuss their issues with you.
Set up a short one-on-one meeting of 10 to 15 mins maximum once or twice a week with your team. Ensure that your team knows you’re available any time in case of any issues.
Schedule Weekly Team Meetings
Since the team does not get a chance to see each other frequently, it is necessary to bring them together virtually from time to time. Ensure that the team is present for the meeting, and it has a good plan and not wasting time. That said, it’s good to have fun with the team too.
Consider ice-breakers, team-building activities, and other engagement tactics to engage every team member throughout the meeting. The transition to a virtual environment might not be easy for some of your team members.
Weigh Deliverables than Hours
With the team working from home, things might not seem under control concerning deliverables. It might be tempting to continuously monitor the team’s working hours to ensure everything is in place. But it is necessary to understand that independence gives the team a feeling of accountability. Some people are more productive before dawn or during midnight hours. Understand that the outcomes speak for themselves.
Acknowledge the Distractions of Your Team
Acknowledge the distractions that your team faces and give tips to resolve them from your experience. Please don’t make them feel guilty for losing focus occasionally. Since the team works from home, distractions are bound to happen all through the day. What’s important is that you, as a manager, Show your team that you’re okay with the occasional distractions unless they do not take a toll on the tangible deliverables. Fighting the distractions is futile as they are inevitable.
Establishing a sense of independence in your team is a critical part of learning to manage employees remotely. Let them decipher how to balance their work and personal life and take time for their hobbies. Encourage them to discover their outside work hobbies, and improve their work-life balance by instilling a sense of independence. Lead them by example; show them how you will do it. Dedicate a part of weekly meetings to engage the team members to share their experience in the meetings.
Not all in the team are the same. Some might be facing difficulties without social interactions and still trying to adapt to the new environment dedicate some time to ensure all are coping with the remote work. Learning to manage a team remotely will have particular challenges like project planning needs a new technique, Celebration techniques change. Being patient will sort out many of these challenges.
Taking an online PMP examination from an Authorized Training Partner (ATP) will help you handle the nuances of changing techniques in project management efficiently.
Instill Trust and Practice Empathy
Trust is a two-way bridge. Build a sense of trust among your team and boost their morale. Allow your team to take ownership and accountability of their daily tasks. Teach them time management and motivate them to do their tasks with minimalistic help. Be easily approachable and build a good rapport among your team to discuss their issues openly with you. Empathize with their work-related issues and give them the right solution to sail through them.
Provide Constructive Criticism
Constructive criticism will help the team identify and overcome their problems. It is a critical aspect to increase productivity and work better. Criticism should be in such a way that they are not bogged down or make them feel worthless. It should help them grow and deliver their best.
Without water-cooler conversations, team building activities, or face-to-face meetings, there can be an increasing gap in team communication and bonding. You can overcome this only with attention and training.
With pandemic hitting us in the middle of a perfectly fine year, we all thought that the remote working would get over in a month or two, but we find ourselves working from home for the past year. It will inevitably continue. Remote working will stay for some more time, and hence it is necessary to equip ourselves and the team to overcome these challenges and keep their best foot forward.
Project Management Training Institute (PMTI) provides Project management professional certification, which equips you to evolve along with the changing times. Enhance your skill with an online PMP certification to face real-time challenges in a planned and poised manner. Training a remote team is no easy task, but it is worth it. It only makes your company more substantial and your projects a success!
Yada is not just the leader of the Project Management Training Institute (PMTI). He helped to write significant portions of the project management standards worldwide. He is helping PMI right now in reviewing, directing, and leading the development of the 7th edition of the PMBOK(r) Guide to incorporate the most monumental changes to project management standards in 35 years. He shares his wisdom with readers via the PMTI blog.