5 key principles for managing a team remotely
Managing a remote workforce can have its challenges, but there are some key ideas and strategies that can help you manage staff and keep them motivated and inspired – no matter where you’re working.

Why businesses need to adapt to remote working

Right now, teams around the world are finding new ways to work at a distance, as businesses have been forced to quickly adapt to remote working.

“The landscape of work is changing rapidly,” says Samantha Miklos, CEO of Cornerstone Medical Recruitment. “People want more time with their family and a genuine work/life balance. A remote workforce also breaks down the geographical barriers some businesses may face to attract the top talent.

“The current climate has highlighted to many businesses that a remote workforce is just as capable of providing the same outcomes, if not better.”

How remote work is good for business

  • Boost productivity: Paul Gardner, General Manager at Stellar Recruitment, says initially there were concerns about managing remote staff, but the results were pleasantly surprising. “The majority of people get just as much work done, if not more work done when working from home,” Gardner says. "I think it's going to be very challenging for businesses to say to their whole workforce that they all need to be back at work five days a week at normal hours."
     
  • Cut overheads: A remote workforce offers the opportunity to expand nationally and internationally more rapidly, with reduced overheads, Miklos says. “The benefits for the company are reduced necessity for office space or expensive lengthy commercial leases. The ability to scale your business is suddenly a lot easier and quicker to do, with low barriers to entry.”

How remote working is good for staff

There’s no doubt that working from home has given everyone extra time in the day, Miklos says. “That’s allowed more work-life balance and time to enjoy things like exercising before work, cooking, running errands on their lunch break, and closer pick-up for childcare. They are also able to manage their own workload at their own pace.”

Gardner says the traditional culture of putting on a suit and travelling into the office to work at a desk was rigid. “Working from home has allowed people to have flexibility, and we've all relaxed a bit.”

5 essentials for managing a remote workforce

  1. Check in with staff

Of course, we’re all different, and working remotely suits some more than others.

“Look out for staff who may start feeling isolated or unmotivated working on their own,” Miklos says. “Encourage them to balance working remotely with working in the office if they can.”

At Stellar, some employees found that remote working didn’t suit them, and where they are able to, asked to return to the office. “Those people thrive in a work environment, while others said they're doing better at home,” Gardner says.

  1. Communicate often

“Communication is key,” says Miklos. “You can never communicate too much with remote workers. “It’s also important to keep an eye on results. If the results are up or down, it’s a clear indicator if it’s working or not. The rest comes down to trust.”

A structured day gives staff direction and a common purpose, she says. “For example, start the day with a team video meeting at 8am to overview priorities for the day, a mid-week company video call to review results and a Friday afternoon ‘wine down’.”

  1. Make the most of technology

Make sure all staff are set up with the right technology for video calls, Gardner says. Wider use of video technology has opened the doors to better communication with teams and clients anywhere in the world.

“If I’m talking to my Brisbane office via Zoom meetings, what stops me from talking to Perth and New Zealand? It's opened those barriers and we're now talking to staff and clients anytime of the day.”

Read more: 4 tech tools to help your team work remotely

  1. Foster training 

With staff always online, it’s a great opportunity to encourage further training, Gardner says. “We’re encouraging our staff to attend webinars, and pushing people to learn new skills, so they’re constantly learning and developing.”

Read more: Why training matters now (and how to maximise your budget)

  1. Help your culture thrive  

Your company culture can be fostered with a bit of planning, says Miklos. Try these culture-boosting ideas:

  • Plan some fun: Add surprises to weekly company meetings, says Miklos. Try a trivia session, or make time for some team Q&A with questions like, ‘What is the first job you ever had’ or ‘What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given’.
     
  • Mark milestones: If possible, bring staff together physically every month or quarter to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and company achievements, Miklos says.
     
  • Keep Friday drinks alive: Distance doesn’t have to stop a drink at the end of the week, says Gardner. “At four o'clock on a Friday afternoon, all of our staff have a beer or a wine in their hand at home and a plate of cheese, and they're sitting there chatting about the week that was.”

Remote work can come with its own unique challenges for team leaders. But by focusing on ways to foster communication, culture and connection in your team, you’ll be able to help them adapt and even benefit from the opportunities remote work offers.