When I first started at Cobalt Sky, there was no choice but for everyone to work together in our office. There were no video conferencing, emails or intranet and the only effective means of communication was a phone call. This left management with little choice but to have all members of their team in the same building.
With the advancement of communication technology, team members now work in different locations either in offices or their own homes. As manager of the data processing department at Cobalt Sky, this is something I’ve had to learn to work with. Throughout my time, we’ve had several team members working remotely and currently have people working from places as far away as Sweden. Most likely I get to meet with them 2-3 times a year or at company events. As more and more team members work remotely, this throws up bigger challenges in term of managing them, not to forget their personal wellbeing. It is very common from my experience that those who work remotely can feel isolated and do not feel part of the team. This is in fact is the biggest challenge I face as I need to keep the team motivated and keep them focussed.
First of all, it’s extremely important to have the right individuals if they are going to work remotely. They must be:
- Self-driven and self-motivated – It can be quite easy to become distracted when you’re not in an office scenario. It’s vital that you can stay on task without needing to be prompted.
- Communication skills – These are very important as they are most likely be liaising with their clients directly not to mention with me as manager, or with the rest of the DP team.
- Individuals should be aware of their goals and objectives
- They should be honest and straight forward as the manager has to rely on them for any issues or feedback.
As the manager of a team with several members who work remotely, I find the below to be really useful:
- Communication on a regular basis, which could be several times a day. It could just be a phone call or skype. I am aware that emails are exchanged frequently, but I feel they are not personal. One can get to know the mood or mindset of their colleague after speaking to them.
- Have regular one-to-one meetings with the staff working remotely (at least once a fortnight). This could start with project related discussion but should also include informal chat where you can discuss non-work-related subjects.
- Make the team aware that you are always available for them and that they should be free to contact you whenever they like.
- Inviting team members for company events as I feel this gives a chance to assess them under relaxed conditions.
- Encourage team culture for the remote staff. Right on time, first time – This is what we always strive for and this can be easily be forgotten if not reminded to the team working remotely.
- Keep them up to date on the business status so that they feel part of the company.
- It is really important to recognise their efforts and reward them.
- Never micromanage them as this can have a negative effect on their confidence. They need to be highly self-motivated and confident individuals.
Whilst it can sometimes be a challenge managing a team in different locations, it’s also helped me as a manager. I’ve learned how to adapt my management style to different scenarios and different people. With new technology being developed every day, remote working is going to become more and more prevalent so I’m sure these will be valuable skills for the years to come.