The beauty of technologies like cloud and IT automation is that it’s enabled many IT teams to work remotely, either some or all of the time. Research has shown that offering flexible work options can dramatically improve productivity, boost employee morale (and therefore retention), maximize efficiency and cut costs. But managing remote teams isn’t without its challenges. Here are a few key pointers that will help keep everyone on track, engaged and working at optimal performance.
Check in on a regular basis.
It’s easy for remote workers to become detached from the team, which could result in a slack in performance, disengagement and potential turnover. Avoid this by making a point to stay in continuous contact with your virtual team members. Check-in consistently, whether it’s daily, weekly, bi-weekly or another arrangement that works for you.
Choose face/voice time over electronic communications.
The same technology that facilitates remote work arrangements should also be utilized to keep offsite workers plugged in. Remember – your employees are already immersed in things like IT automation and other human-less tools. Bring them back to reality by connecting via telephone or video conferencing instead of email or instant messaging. If possible, occasional in-person meetings are recommended.
Make communication a priority.
When it comes to remote workers, “out of sight, out of mind” can easily become a problem. Co-located teams that perform at their best do so in part because those in leadership roles make regular communication a priority. Get to know your off-site employees. Actively listen when you’re meeting together. Treat them with trust and respect. Ask about workload and progress. Simply put, over-communicate.
Be clear about expectations.
As a manager, it’s your job to clearly and accurately let your employees – both on-site and remote – about exactly what’s expected of them. Being located at a satellite or home office can make it even more challenging for team members to know where they stand. Always be direct about roles, projects, deadlines and anything else so that your remote workers will be able to deliver on those expectations.
Make yourself available and accessible.
Your remote workers cannot simply pop into your office when they have a question or concern. Overcome this challenge by making yourself as available as possible and ensuring that your team members know when and how to best get ahold of you. Respond promtly to messages or emails. This may involve making yourself available across different time zones, but it’s essential to running a cohesive dispersed team.
Enable and encourage collaboration.
To be most effective in their roles, remote employees should be able to connect and collaborate with other team members. Thanks to technology, there are plenty of tools available to facilitate this, from Skype and instant messages to Slack and other cloud collaboration tools. Once the preferred platforms are set up, encourage your subordinates to participate and lead the charge by actively engaging as well.
When employing tools like IT automation, it can be easy to become detached from the human aspect of working as part of an IT team. Overcome this obstacle by using team building and camaraderie to foster interpersonal relationships amongst team members. Make a point to get to know your employees on a personal level and try to find a common ground. Encourage occasional “water cooler” conversations, as they will enable personal connections and strengthen relationships.
If you thought IT automation would allow you to set it and forget it, you may have forgotten about the one key component of your IT team that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon: people. Keeping the human touch in the mix can be challenging, especially when some or all team members are located off-site. The seven tips above should help you keep your remote team happier, healthier and ultimately more successful.