The Virtual Assistant industry was among the first to embrace remote working and in fact hinges on it. Way before the pandemic, VAs were already working and meeting their clients’ needs off-site, either in the offices of Virtual Assistant companies or in their own homes. This is why they were able to shift rapidly and adapt to the lockdown. Moreover, this also allowed them to help their clients’ businesses adapt. In short Virtual Assistants have been lifesavers and have a wealth of knowhow when it comes to remote workplace management, which savvy clients have been adapting to their own operations.
Remote Workplace Management in the New Normal
Now more and more companies are extending remote work arrangements until the beginning of 2021. Some have even moved to work from home programs permanently. For this, it is important for business success to promote remote-friendly culture and help teams be productive wherever they work. So here are recommendations for taking remote team management to the next level as the New Normal ushers in a new work environment for the future.
1. Trust But Verify
Managers and supervisors can no longer appear over employee cubicles to check out what they are doing. And tracking apps can only record so much employee activity. Moreover, people won’t appreciate overly intrusive surveillance, which could have an adverse effect on morale and even productivity.
Successful remote workplace management is no easy feat. All of a sudden, employees who were cubicle neighbors now operate as remote teams. In place of pantry chitchat, they have to build remote culture.
When it comes to work that requires collaboration, how can organizations keep up that old pace when their employees are in their homes (which might be halfway across the world)?
What remote workplace leaders have to do is build trust. You have to count on people to fulfill their end of the deal. But first, be sure that they know what their responsibilities are in the first place. Communicate regularly and on multiple fronts, in email, direct messaging, group chats and more. Email chains have the benefit of being able to keep track of the conversation, unlike messy chats, but messengers allow for more responsiveness.
Remember that communication goes both ways. So be sure the conversation is “give and take.” At the same time, conversations can be one-on-one as well as involving broader groups to get wider input and feedback.
Remote work means a lot of subtle cues will go unnoticed. Unlike when working in the same physical space where you can see that someone is obviously having a rough time. So be transparent, don’t shy from talking about life and circumstances out of work as long as the timing is appropriate.
Proper management entails knowing how well your employees are doing at home. And it helps to find things that you have in common – like if they take their dogs out on walks, what their meal preparation routine is like, and so on. These commonalities will help people bond and will be good for the team.
2. Clear Up Communication Lines
One of the most frustrating issues that comes up in remote work is late replies or a lack of responsiveness. Anxiety and frustration can build as you wait for the recipient to answer your urgent email. It can be such a chore to sort through a long and tedious chain of messages to figure out what the current plan is because no one is replying at the moment. Scheduling differences can amplify this too. When the lines of communication are muddled, worries, doubts and tempers tend to flare.
On the other hand, there is such a thing such as micromanagement and over-communication. This results in people being bombarded by messages. It might reach the extent that they’ll spend more time making replies than actually working on the task at hand.
Transparency and trust will help with this. Organize your channels of communication. Have one group chat for reporting tasks, another chat for goofing off. Use trackers, spreadsheets and project management tools. Assembling these in an easy to parse way will save everyone a lot of trouble.
3. The Right Tools for the Job
Working remotely or in the office require the same tools in terms of institutional memory, video capability, email and chat. These tools are not just necessary for connecting the team but for enabling the workplace to function itself. So be sure you have the right tech for working remotely.
Institutional memory entails leveraging the Cloud, with shared drives and project management systems. These allow files to be saved, uploaded and accessible anywhere while remaining secure. Moreover, project management software allows for easier collaboration and tracking of projects and tasks. Not everything can be attached to emails or messengers, which can get overwhelming at some point.
Communications channels are also important. There has to be a good variety of them as some mediums work better in certain things compared to others. Organizations need a reliable platform for video conferences.
4. Thinking Globally
Organizations leveraging Virtual Assistants and Virtual Teams are probably already familiar with this. Remote workplace management has to account for regional differences in schedules, in local situations, and more. Ideally each team can have members with overlapping hours and time zones. This lessens the need for people to work outside of their normal hours in order to collaborate with colleagues. Thus workflow is optimized and collaboration can continue as usual.
5. Set an Example
Leaders who are passionate about their organizations need to set an example that others should follow. A healthy example. Is it healthy to be connected all the time? Should you keep abreast of everything and put in extra hours of work? People do not need to be connected 24/7. They need downtime to recuperate and to be with their families and loved ones.
Moreover, working at home requires setting proper scheduling boundaries otherwise work and household tasks might overlap and just leave people exhausted. So lead by example and show the workforce how to prioritize their affairs in a healthy way, with enough time set for self-care, loved ones, workout routines and walks with the dog or cuddles with the cat.