How do you adapt to virtual work? Are you embracing hybrid work and making the most of it? Remote work benefits companies in terms of employee retention and talent attraction. As most of us experienced at some point, working from home is not always easy and often requires some adjustments. While working from anywhere enhances a better work-life balance, it can also lead to overworking. Is the home office creating some issues among your team? How do you maintain a positive workplace culture virtually? How do you sustain workforce engagement and productivity? These are all normal questions leaders of remote employees may come across. Some employees were already working remotely before the pandemic. Nevertheless, most of them have had to learn a completely new way of working and are still adapting to this modern concept. To help you understand the challenges of virtual work and adopt a successful approach to hybrid work management, here are 14 best practices for remote teams.
To discover how we help companies to make the most of hybrid work, request an online demo of the deskbird app!
The rise of remote and hybrid work models
While managing remote teams became suddenly mandatory during the Covid-19 crisis, today it is a smart choice for many companies around the world to maintain this work flexibility. What appeared as a solution to fight a health crisis is now a solution for improving employee experience, attracting new talent and cutting rent costs. When job seekers look at a job offer, one of the most important aspects they research first is the possibility of remote work.
A hybrid work model answers many workers’ needs. For digital nomads, it is the possibility of travelling around the world while working at the same time. For parents, it is the ability to focus on creating a better work-life balance. For others, remote work gives them the opportunity to simply enjoy working from anywhere they feel like (home, coworking spaces, coffee shops, etc.) and avoid the lethargy of routine. With a hybrid schedule, employees can come to the office only when they need to or want to, a concept that is here to stay.
➡️ Do you want to help your employees schedule their calendars efficiently? Discover the week planning feature included in the deskbird app.
14 steps for a successful hybrid work management
1. Set up a clear remote work guideline
Let’s start with a basic but sometimes forgotten recommendation for remote teams’ best practices: share a clear remote work guideline. How many hours do those at home have to work? Do they have a fixed schedule or do you employ flexitime? Do they have to stay connected on your communication tool all the time or can they come and answer punctually throughout the day? Be clear on how your team is supposed to work when operating remotely by giving all indications needed for a smooth and effective remote work model.
2. Provide all the hybrid work technology needed
If your company chooses to implement a hybrid work model, make sure that your workforce is equipped with the hybrid workplace technology required to perform efficiently. Obviously, access to a laptop and the Internet is a must, headphones are also often needed. Additionally, operating with remote work software that matches your needs as a hybrid team is also essential. Remote work software includes digital communication tools like Slack, project management tools like Trello, desk booking software like deskbird, and so on.
3. Encourage communication
Communication is always a very important aspect of team success and is even more crucial when they work from different places. As a manager, encouraging communication as much as possible and providing your team members with the right tools to do so are part of your responsibilities. No matter if the goal is to share new updates, provide feedback, follow up on a project, or fix scheduling conflicts, communication is a core pillar of the best practices for remote teams. There are many ways to foster this practice. For example, you can plan a 1-hour weekly meeting or you can schedule a 30 minutes daily optional meeting to discuss anything that happened during the day.
4. Be present in the online conversations
Encouraging interactions between your team members is great but you also need to be present whenever possible. If you show up at the virtual weekly meeting and then they don’t hear from you for the entire week, this is not going to work well. At the office, communicating is easier. When any question, issue or confusion arises , employees can simply ask you and get a quick answer. With remote work, it is different. Therefore, you also need to be part of their conversations. It can be by email, by zoom meetings or by Slack. It doesn’t matter as soon as you are present and available. First, it reinforces your relationship with your team by showing your engagement with them. Second, it gives you the chance to spot any issue arising and solve it as soon as possible.
➡️Your hybrid team is experiencing some issues when planning their week? Read our article about scheduling conflicts to know how to solve them!
5. Set clear expectations
Similar to providing clear expectations for your team when working from the office, you also need to do so when working remotely, if not even more. We are not talking about a remote work guideline like we did earlier, but about an organisational structure. It is essential for the team to clearly understand the goals and what you expect from them. You can also only communicate about the expected outcome to enhance engagement and creativity. This is a great technique to minimise micromanagement and show your team that you fully trust them and their skills.
6. Trust and reward your remote team
Talking about trust, remote work can trigger trust issues between managers and employees. Leaders may start showing micromanagement patterns by not being able to see their team working. How can you be sure your team members are actually working if they operate from home? Are they behind their screen or are they just connected but doing something else? Studies show that employees working remotely are up to 40% more productive than in the office. So we highly recommend you trust them. Also, don’t forget to congratulate them as this is also a common issue in hybrid work management. By not seeing each other, we tend to communicate less about the positive or take the time to reward the great work. In the long term, this can have a critical impact on your employee engagement.
7. Allow time flexibility
First, successful remote leaders don’t micromanage their team. Second, they give their employees more flexibility because they know the positive effects flexitime can have. If a flexible schedule does not affect the tasks of other members of the team, why not let your remote employees work when they are the most productive? This is a win-win solution. From your point of view, you make sure they are operating when they know they are the most productive. For instance, let’s say your collaborator is going through a personal issue that needs to be solved quickly. By letting him deal with it first, he will then have a free mind and be able to focus and be productive. From their point of view, they can reach a better work-life balance which makes them more engaged in their tasks.
8. Ensure your team does not overwork
Losing track of time and overworking is one of the downsides of the home office. Obviously, you need to make sure your team works enough to match the number of hours of their contract. However, preventing them from working too long is important in the arrival of hybrid work. When all employees are on-site, it is quite easy for managers to notice extra hours. For example, you were able to observe if they skipped their lunch break to finish a task or if they stayed longer while everybody else was leaving. With remote work, this is becoming a bit more complicated to detect. It is essential that you pay attention to this aspect in order to prevent employee fatigue or burnout.
9. Share information like when you are on-site
When you see your team members at the office, it is quick and easy to talk about any information that could impact their work. It can happen officially during a meeting or informally while sharing a lunch break, for example. How does it occur when you are not operating in the same workspace? Sharing information may then sometimes be lacking which can easily result in not only a decrease in productivity but also a feeling of exclusion. The way you do it doesn’t matter. It can be through an effective online meeting, by email or by chat. Maybe it requires a team video session if everybody is concerned or a simple one-to-one conversation is enough. You need to adapt to the situation but, most importantly, keep sharing the information as if you were on-site.
10. Maintain all types of meetings sparingly
As we mentioned, communication is even more important in a remote work environment than in a traditional working structure. If meetings are part of your communication strategy, this should not change because you are working virtually. In other words, if company, team and one-to-one meetings are usually planned on a regular basis, and are necessary, then they should remain the same. However, keep in mind that too many meetings can truly impact employee productivity. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, banning meetings for only one day increases productivity by 35%. Another issue with a high number of online sessions is virtual exhaustion, also called Zoom fatigue. Therefore, if needed, maintaining all types of meetings like how they were run on-site is great, but make sure not to overdo it.
11. Offer multiple meeting options
We are all different and what works for one person might not work for another. This is why it is important to offer multiple meeting options if possible. In a hybrid work environment, this shouldn’t be a problem. Let your remote team know that you can either meet digitally or on-site when they come to the office. A hybrid space management app like deskbird helps you arrange meeting times and dates as well as book the desk or the meeting room of your choice. This mix of options gives you the opportunity to easily meet everybody’s needs and preserve a positive and smooth way of working.
12. Organise remote teams’ activities
The workplace culture can make all the difference when it comes to talent attraction and employee experience. However, it is also something that can easily vanish when working remotely. Organising remote teams’ activities is a great way to keep the company’s cultural spirit, especially for teams that don’t see each other often in real life. It can be a simple digital coffee to exchange thoughts about anything but work, or a virtual game night with your team to bring some fun and team spirit! You can come up with any activity you want as long as it creates a great moment as a team.
13. Focus on creating a healthy remote working model
Providing good health conditions is, we hope, a core value for every business. Remote work can trigger new types of health issues that need to be considered. For example:
Setting up rules to help your remote team stay healthy physically and mentally can be part of the remote work guideline mentioned above. Again, communication is key and as you are not with them to notice any sign of fatigue, burnout, exclusion and so on. Trust also plays a big role here. Not only do you need to trust them, but they also need to feel that they can rely on you to share any health issues they might be facing.
14. The ultimate remote teams' best practice
For your team to succeed and grow together, feedback is a key component of the remote teams' best practices. Sharing feedback is not only key for personal improvement but also to see if your way of working is paying off. It should be a vertical process where everyone is entitled to share their feelings, opinions and ideas. It helps to spot any blocking point, to understand which approaches work and where improvement is needed. And don’t forget, the ideal feedback ratio is 5:1, which means you need five points of positive feedback to counterbalance one negative one!
Summary of the remote teams’ best practices
As this article comes to an end, we have to admit, it was quite a long one! However, as hybrid work is becoming the new normal, it is important for us to give you a complete overview of how to successfully manage virtual teams. So here are the main ideas to remember if you are willing to apply the remote teams’ best practices:
Providing the best hybrid workplace technology;
Fostering communication as much as possible;
Maintaining a positive corporate culture;
Focusing on inclusivity;
Being aware of possible downsides of remote work;
Being far away from each other should be a reason to be even more employee-centric. Your team members need to see that they can count on you and that you are there for them. For this reason, hybrid work management has to be based on trust, recognition and communication. While remote work collaboration can sometimes get tricky, those 14 remote teams’ best practices will help you embrace all the benefits of hybrid work.
Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.