28 May 2024

The secrets to long-distance management

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Illustration of man at a desk managing remote workers

It is important to identify negative signs early and seek solutions before the problems get out of hand. Image: WCA.

As organisations widen their talent search and more employees clamour for remote working, Vartika Kashyap lists the problems, and the solutions, to managing the virtual revolution.

There is no doubt that dispersed workplace settings offer tremendous flexibility, but let’s face it – managing virtual teams is way more complicated than keeping an eye on them in-house.

You can’t get into everybody’s pocket, constantly asking for updates to ensure they are not slacking off. All you can do is identify the negative signs early and look for solutions.

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Here are some signs that you should consider alarming when assessing accountability and productivity in your dispersed organisation.

  • Missed deadlines: Tasks are consistently delivered late, causing delays in project progress and creating bottlenecks.
  • Unclear ownership: Confusion exists about who is responsible for specific tasks, leading to unfinished work or duplication of efforts.
  • Poor communication: Team members are uninformed about project updates, leading to misunderstandings and a lack of direction.
  • Low engagement in meetings: Virtual meetings lack participation or show a consistent pattern of absent or unprepared team members.
  • Declining morale: Team members seem unmotivated, disengaged, and frustrated with the virtual work environment.
  • Increased finger-pointing: A blame culture emerges, with team members focusing on who is at fault for missed targets rather than finding solutions.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Unclear goals or timelines lead to a sense of overwhelm and ultimately, missed targets.
  • Lack of visibility into progress: It’s difficult to track individual or team progress, making it hard to identify and address roadblocks.

To ensure your virtual team is both accountable and productive while working away from the office, try giving these practices a shot.

Set clear expectations: First things first, keep your team updated on project goals, milestones and objectives, leaving no room for ambiguity. Also, clearly outline their roles and responsibilities to ensure efficient operational flows.

Make them understand how their contributions will align with the organisation’s vision.

Delegate tasks effectively: Before delegating tasks, ensure you have a clear sight of team members’ strengths, weaknesses, preferences, workload and availability.

Ensure the tasks align with their skills and expertise to improve work performance and ensure high-quality work. Be considerate of time-zone differences and leave scope for overlapping hours to facilitate collaboration.

Establish clear communication channels: In a recent survey, a concerning 21 per cent of respondents said remote working had made communication difficult.

Define clear communication channels such as phone calls, video conferencing, emails, messages and social media platforms to your team for smooth interactions.

Also, you can define communication protocols, including expected response times, to ensure promptness and effectiveness.

Track progress and results: Keep a finger on the pulse of your team members’ progress and task results to hold them accountable. Make them aware of your key performance indicators right from the beginning so that they can strive to meet them.

You can host daily stand-ups or schedule meetings at specific intervals to discuss progress. Project management tools with robust reporting capabilities can also help you get a bird’s-eye view of progress.

Provide regular feedback: Be prompt in delivering feedback as it ensures immediate course correction and improved performance.

However, never confuse feedback with bashing or criticism. Instead, set a positive tone before diving into improvements. Also, empower your employees to come to you with their concerns and perspectives.

Use the right tools: Harnessing technology in your operations enhances visibility throughout your entire workflow.

By investing in the appropriate tools, you can establish a virtual environment where everyone maintains accountability and productivity.

Empower team members: Resist your urge to micromanage your team while they are working remotely. Instead, give them the autonomy to operate independently and trust their decision-making skills.

You can also boost their confidence by investing in their professional development even when afar. This will increase their motivation to excel and deliver their best.

Create a culture of collaboration: Leverage a variety of collaboration tools, such as ProofHub, Slack and Zoom for your teams. Also, centralise all your knowledge in one place so that everyone can access it whenever they want.

You can also enhance productivity standards and create a shared workspace by promoting clear communication, hosting co-working sessions, and encouraging team-building activities.

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Promote regular check-ins: You can foster accountability by scheduling regular individual and team meetings.

Keep your focus on providing feedback, evaluating progress and asking for updates to eradicate unaccountability and productivity bottlenecks.

Develop a clear agenda for your reviews. Make sure to take a proactive approach to avoid project delays and setbacks.

Accountability and productivity go hand in hand, and both are essential for creating a winning formula.

Your team needs to be on top of both to be relevant in virtual dynamics. When everyone is accountable and hustling, they are more likely to achieve the shared goals.

Vartika Kashyap is chief marketing manager at project managing company ProofHub. She is an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. She can be contacted on Twitter at @kashyapvartika. This article first appeared on the ProofHub website.

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