If you’re like me, dozens of how-to articles appear in your inbox and social feeds every day that discuss everything from how to lead better to how to make the best sourdough bread. Most of the time I breeze past them, but the title of the following article by Travis Hubbard, from Medium’s Entrepreneurs Handbook, caught my attention: I’ve Led Remote Teams for 16 Years. Here’s How You Keep Your People Engaged.
Knowing that remote working isn’t going away anytime soon, I gave it a read and happily found Hubbard, the owner of a small internet marketing firm in Stafford, Va. who has managed remote teams for years, presented eight succinct tips that hit the right note around keeping remote workers engaged. I thought I would share an abridged version, as I know this is a hot topic for you as well. Here goes:
- Set up a recurring call with the team. Hubbard is correct to point out the upside of working remotely is that “we don’t have to sit through long, typically useless meetings packed two deep around a conference room table.” Instead, he suggests managers “use that wasted time to work on being more effective with their communications to the team. I set up two 30-minute calls each week, one on Monday and one on Thursday. These aren’t formal status calls, but rather a place for everyone to share information about what they’re working on, and ask for assistance if needed.”
- Be clear about objectives. “Don’t assume everyone on your team knows the higher level objectives,” Hubbard says. “They may not have an immediate impact on the day-to-day for each employee, but communicating them brings everyone into the fold.” Hubbard also suggests that for those objectives your team can influence, “help them understand how their work is tied to the performance of the company.”
- Communicate your priorities. Hubbard doesn’t mince words here: “It’s absolutely essential that your team knows exactly where you want to go, and what you want to have done first,” he says. “Otherwise, team members will set their priorities based on what they think your priorities are.”
- Follow up with individuals. “I’ve found that assigning actions to an individual and setting a specific due date works wonders,” Hubbard says. “Task assigned, ambiguity gone.”
- Block off one “No Meeting” day each week. I love this one, especially since our parent company, NAPCO Media, has instituted “No Meeting Fridays” and it has been really productive for me. Hubbard also suggests Fridays, and says it should be the “one day a week that’s set aside to just work, or take care of admin, or whatever it is that needs to get done.”
- Help shape a new environment and culture. Hubbard says that even if you have never managed remote workers before, it’s important to “face this change head on and use it as an opportunity to shape a new culture within your organization.” He goes on to say that there are efficiencies to be gained and it’s up to us to turn the potential into reality.
- Buy them noise-canceling headphones. Research has shown that moderate background noise (like working in a coffee shop) enhances creativity, so try giving your employees noise-cancelling headphones that allow them to listen to music or white noise to minimize distractions. They don’t have to be expensive ones either, Hubabrd says. “After trashing my $200’ish pair on a recent flight, I bought a pair for under $50 on Amazon.com, and they work like a champ.”
- Don’t spy on them. Trust your people, Hubbard says. After all, “if you feel that you need to ‘monitor your employees to ensure they’re spending time in Excel or Word as opposed to watching YouTube videos, then you have a bigger problem.”
“Managing a remote workforce requires a shift in our thinking,” notes Hubbard. “But this offers a unique opportunity to shape the workforce culture in our organizations and should be embraced.” I agree, do you? Do you have any tips for managing remote workers? If so, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post them in a follow-up article.