The role of the remote manager
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize two things about remote work: that it can be a reality and that it can even be beneficial for companies. In fact, when done right, studies have shown that remote work can increase productivity levels and greatly reduce employees’ absenteeism. From my experience as team manager, working from home also helps people become more autonomous, which in turn contributes to their professional growth and development.
As we enter our sixth month of imposed home office for most office workers across the globe, some businesses are starting to talk about making this a standard practice for the future. However, fostering a remote work culture doesn’t just mean allowing your team to stay home a few days a week. Like people, companies also need to adapt their work methods to make room to this new reality – not only on a technology level (by providing suitable communication and project management tools to their employees), but also from an organizational standpoint.
With everyone working from their own homes, most procedures and routines need to shift to a more digital operation – from scheduling a meeting or organizing onboarding sessions to handling HR and Financial processes. At the same time, the way team leaders manage their teams must also radically evolve from obsolete methods such as controlling clock-ins and outs or demanding daily task reports.
When in March we were all forced to work from home, managers had to adjust their teams’ dynamics, ensuring everyone was motivated, engaged and productive. I was no longer simply assigning tasks and ensuring work was on schedule but was now also regularly checking in on my team’s well-being.
The truth is: not everyone has the ideal conditions for working remotely – most people don’t have a workstation at home with a proper desk and chair; some have kids or elderly people they need to take care of; others have never done it before and have difficulty organizing themselves in this environment. As a manager, you need to acknowledge these issues and help your employees develop a system that best works for each of them.
In a remote environment, communication is more important than ever to make sure everyone knows what needs to be done, what’s expected of them and to guarantee no one is falling behind. In this scenario, more is less – less doubts, less problems, less frustrations.
When my team and I went remote, we decided to keep doing our daily morning meetings, as a way to keep everyone engaged and to keep track of the project development more easily. We make sure all our team members have their cameras on so as to be able to notice non-verbal cues that can indicate any uncertainties or issues that need to be addressed.
Overall, I’m a stronger believer that virtual collaboration doesn’t replace the team cohesion of physical contact – but it can complement it, as we have all been able to experience during the past few months. After this pandemic is over, companies must be prepared to enter a new workplace where remote is the new normal – even if only partially so.