Man-Management of a team working in totally different locations requires a different approach than if they are sitting at the desk opposite you. Communication is number one on the list. This does not mean unstructured talking for the sake of it. It means planning how you will contact people, why, when and how long you will talk for.
Tips for managing remote employees:
1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! You cannot communicate too much in this environment. You have numerous tools at your disposal to help you do this whether by mobile phone,video link, team chat rooms and email, but do not underestimate how hard this is to do effectively for a prolonged period.
2) Make sure that each team member knows what you are expecting of them and when it needs to be delivered by. It can be very easy to lose key pieces of information in translation, so communicating what the task is, who owns the task and who is responsible for completing the task, along with the deadline is essential. You can use any number of tools to help you manage this, including Excel or a Project Management tool such as Microsoft Project.
3) Ask team members how they would like to communicate with you and the rest of the team and listen to their preferred choice. You may not be able to accommodate everyone's preferences all of the time, but see if you can compromise once in a while.
4) Set up a team video link each day. This does not have to be first thing in the morning, but at a time when all members from your team can make the call. Make sure that all members of the team have a minute or two to speak about what they are doing and how they are feeling and then mute everyone whilst you go through your communication. Open up the Q&A or Chat area for everyone so they can relate their thoughts to you and the team.
5) Set up a structure for the video calls. Start with each member having their slot and then have a set order of items that both you and you team need to know about before the end of the call.
6) Make sure you have a strategy to manage introverts and extroverts within the team. Everyone needs to be given an opportunity to contribute even if it is just to say, “I have nothing to contribute" or “I am fine".
7) Be wary of the very quiet team members. Follow up with them if they are acting out of character or they seem withdrawn. Your soft management skills need to be utilised even more when communicating with remote workers.
8) Make the call duration no more than 30–40 minutes, otherwise people start losing focus and attention. If you need to go into more detail, set up a separate call with the people that need to be in attendance.
9) There may be times when the number of people that are in attendance may just want to sit and hear what you have to say, and that is fine. It should not be mandatory that all team members have to join in on every topic.