There are five key areas to successfully managing remote workers, according to a recent article by the Harvard Business Review.
But before you work on those areas, you must realise that there are three kinds of distance when dealing with remote workers: physical (place and time), operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels) and affinity (values, trust, and interdependency).
Reducing the effect of these distances will help you bring your team closer together, even if they are in different countries.
Regular group video meetings, internal newsletters on company achievements and goals, a virtual office or intranet where your team can post their thoughts or suggestions, and group incentives (These will depend on your own company’s goals).
On top of these, the article pointed to these five key areas to focus on:
1: Communications: keep it brief but clear
Don’t assume that others understand your abbreviations, text speak or shorthand. Communication should be ultra clear, no matter how you do it. Indeed, you can never be too clear, but it is too easy to be less clear than you should.
2: Avoid message dumping
Don’t overload your staff with follow-up calls, emails or messages unless you absolutely need to. Let them get on with their tasks while you get on with running your business. Time wasted on pointless emails and messages could be better spent on increasing efficiency or team engagement.
3: Establish communication norms
What one company determines as the “norm” for communication may not suit the next. There are many ways to quickly communicate with teams, Slack, Google Docs, Whatsapp, Messenger etc. But from the outset should make it clear how you expect your team to communicate in a way that everyone is involved and nothing gets lost. Slack is particularly good for this as it is also an app as well as desktop capabilities.
4: See the hidden opportunities in written communications
Text-based communication places less importance on interpersonal skills and physical appearance, offering an effective way to share power and decision-making. Research shows that introverted individuals are less inhibited in online versus offline interactions. However, you need to watch out for virtual unconscious bias, where punctuation, grammar and word choice might reveal prejudiced attitudes towards certain groups.
5: Create intentional space for celebration
Old school birthday cakes are still important for remote teams. Creating virtual spaces and rituals for celebrations and socializing can strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for future collaboration. Find ways to shorten the affinity distance.
As more and more of our interactions happen digitally, we will continue to experience new forms of miscommunication and misunderstanding. The solution will not come from new technologies (although, no doubt, developers will keep trying to bridge that gap).
Instead, the solution is in understanding the new rules of engagement; in building a communication skill set that reflects the demands of our digitally-driven age.
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