Solomon Amar, CEO AllSTARSITyour trusted Offshore Development Partner.
A paradigm shift. A tectonic change. The new normal. Whichever epithet you choose, the meaning is the same: There is a huge change in work dynamics due to the global adoption of remote work. And this shift, however historic, has created its own problems from a management standpoint. How can those in management positions – who may also be working remotely – maintain open lines of communication with their team members? How can they keep the project and team performance in optimal condition? What about those daily meetings, which may involve multiple time zones? How can managers, well, manage?
The importance of knowing how to manage remote teams
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb told Time“I think the office as we know it is over.”
Indeed, for many, working on location has become something they used to do. The work landscape has also changed quite drastically in the wake of the pandemic.
Many people simply don’t want to go back to the office, for several reasons. Mainly – and this may seem painfully obvious – because it isn’t necessary. From a technological point of view, it is perfectly possible to perform many current tasks remotely – whether that be from home, from a shared co-working space or from a beach lounger (provided there is good shade and a solid internet connection!). So the trope of dragging staff into downtown offices, with all that it entails (commuting, parking, ancillary costs, etc.) has become as redundant as it is anachronistic.
The shift to remote work is also a powerful motivator. Many companies, large and small, lose staff simply because management does not want to let go of the past. Fine, say the employees, I can do better elsewhere. And this is true. In the modern era, a vastly improved work-life balance is one of the main reasons people choose to be out of the office. Here are some stats to back this up:
• 77% of remote workers in a research report that they are more productive when they work from home.
• 74% of people in another survey, they said they would consider quitting their current job because of the remote work policy.
Common Complaints From Managers About Remote Working
As employees move away from centralized and tightly controlled office environments, managers who traditionally had a sense of control over the workforce may feel alienated by the change in work practices. The issues managers have most often mentioned regarding remote working are:
1. Lack of Control: When most (or all) employees work remotely, managers can feel that the departments become impractical and harder to manage than if everyone is in the same building or even in the same room. In my experience this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the job of the management layer to establish a clear set of goals and processes that align with new situations.
2. Tracking achievements: A software developer responding to a manager’s query a little later than the manager would expect does not equate to poor performance. I think the best policy is to track and measure the results, not the time of day when something was done or delivered.
3. Communication: This is related to the issue of mentality and attitude differences between employees, sometimes due to their origin from different geographic regions. Some employees may prefer to speak directly to their managers, while others take a different approach and engage HR directly when problems arise. Here too, good communication between managers and other layers of staff is crucial.
Common Developer Complaints About Remote Management
1. Lack of Information, Lack of Access: I’ve noticed that this problem tends to be more acute during the onboarding period. Employees may spend an inordinate amount of time finding the right person to talk about certain aspects of the job and may not have access to the necessary tools and systems. It’s crucial to give new hires all the information and access they need right from the start. Managers should always designate a dedicated person to help new hires during their first few weeks.
2. Lack of Structure: It’s harder to understand someone’s role when everyone is working remotely. Therefore, managers should clearly explain the structure of the company, who is who and who does what in the organization.
3. No Deadlines: Due to miscommunication, deadlines can get out of hand. Shifting the deadline every now and then is acceptable, but if it becomes a recurring problem, staff can become frustrated and lose motivation.
4. No Feedback: Every employee expects to receive feedback on their performance so that they can understand whether they are doing their job according to expectations and within the set guidelines. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to hold periodic one-on-one meetings to communicate and exchange information freely.
5. Differences in Mentality: Each country has its own cultural values and traits, which may be misunderstood by others or undervalued by those who work with colleagues around the world. In extreme cases, this can lead to quarrels or conflicts in the workplace. This is something that managers can pay close attention to to prevent the occurrence of these situations.
Five tips for better management
Every company and every business environment is different, with different goals, objectives and cultures. It’s difficult (and probably futile) to try to create a universal set of tips that cover every possible situation and eventuality. But it is possible (and recommended) to create some guidelines that will have more or less universal appeal and applicability for managers. Namely:
1. Clearly define expectations.
2. Emphasize the results, rather than how to achieve them.
3. Ensure remote teams have the resources they need.
4. Show flexibility and empathy.
5. Adapt your approach to extroverts and introverts, as they often tend to articulate their problems differently.
Ultimately, managers should consider how to address the above pain points and follow these tips for managing high-performance teams.