In environmental and civil engineering, as well as in the energy sector, managing remote teams is a way of life. Remote work is becoming more and more popular for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it offers employees and contractors a better work-life balance and it helps companies to save on overheads. That said, managing a remote team is also a unique challenge that requires a specific set of skills and tools in order to ensure that the whole team stays connected and productive. So how can you successfully manage your team in the field, no matter where they are? Here are just a few great tips and tools that will make managing remote teams easier.
Tip - Don't Focus on Work Hours; Focus on Deliverables
When you're managing an in-office team, you have control over your team's work hours and what activities they tackle and when. But with a remote team, you no longer have that same control – and trying to dictate your team's hours and activities down to the minute will often backfire and result in lower job satisfaction. After all, one of the reasons why remote work is so attractive to employees and contractors is that it gives them more control over their daily schedule.
This will require you to change your benchmarks for judging what constitutes good work and what constitutes hard work. Instead of measuring the amount of time that your remote workers dedicate to your project, measure their deliverables. Did they meet their deadlines this week? Is their work of a high caliber? These are the details that matter when managing a remote team.
Tip – Stop Trying to Micromanage; It Simply Does Not Work
Typically, people in supervisory and management positions have their own unique management styles. One common style of managing is known as micromanaging, also known as hands-on or over-the-shoulder managing. If you're a hands-on manager, you'll need to re-train yourself in order to succeed with a remote team. Not being there in person to look over your team's shoulders and keep things running smoothly means you will need to develop trust in your team and transition into a more empowering management style.
Step one: Remember that you've put your team in place because you believe they are the best people suited to the task at hand. You need to have faith in your team's abilities and in your judgment, and allow your team members the freedom to do what they do best.
Tip – Change Your Mindset to "Remote First"
Software startup Trello uses a remote-based marketing team for its advertising initiatives, and the team manager and VP of Marketing, Stella Garber, says that she had to completely change the way she approaches projects in order to better manage both an in-person team and a remote team. Says Garber:
"It took a while to get our rhythm down, especially from a management perspective…(the 'remote first' mentality) is an essential practice for us at Trello. It means that even if one team member is remote and the rest are in the office, everyone will default to a videoconference. That way, remote workers don't feel left out…there will always be a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) when dealing with remote teams, so I've found that over-communicating is often better than assuming team members will find things out through the grapevine (or by message in a bottle)."
Tip – Don't Forget About the Social Aspect
When it comes to managing on-site versus remote teams, one key difference is in the social contact – or lack thereof – that each group has with key members. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that remote teams fail is that they don't end up actually developing a rapport. If you want your team to act like a team, you need to make them feel like a team – and that starts with giving them opportunities to simply socialize.
These team members aren't bumping into each other at the water cooler or making small talk in the lunchroom, so you need to re-create those opportunities in the virtual space. Encourage your team to regularly videoconference just to ask each other what's going on and simply bond as a team.
Tool - Arkit: Collaborate Quickly and Easily with an All-in-One Suite
Arkit is a map-based project management and collaboration solution that provides large enterprises with powerful new remote communication and project management functions. Arkit's project map makes it easy for on-the-ground employees, site managers, off-site contractors, and upper-level supervisors to view project details and communicate about project needs. Arkit offers powerful organizational capabilities like lab data management, document uploads, task lists, budget outlines, task assignments, and a project history. That means even though you're not in the same place as your team, you can still see everything they're doing in almost real time and adjust project deadlines, budget allocations, and strategies as the need arises.
Arkit's project activity stream serves as a detailed permanent record of everything that happened, so nothing gets lost. Arkit also provides an overview of man-hour utilization across sites, which managers can use to better allocate talent and avoid inefficiencies and redundancies. And with intuitively designed visual reports, you can quickly see detailed graphs and charts that show you which sites are about to overspend their budget, which sites don't have enough people assigned to the crew, and which sites are falling behind schedule.
Tool - GoToMeeting: The Gold Standard in Enterprise Videoconferencing
Project management suites are great for organizing files, listing project objectives, and keeping the team on the same page. But when you're managing a remote team, it can be challenging to work around communication barriers, especially if your team is comprised of people whose core communication competency is spoken rather than written. And considering the fact that a full 93% of human communication happens through tone of voice and body language, simply writing back and forth with team members isn't the most efficient way to communicate.
That's where a videoconferencing program like GoToMeeting can help. With GoToMeeting, you can host group video chats seamlessly to keep everyone on the same page. And with GoToMeeting's ability to host conferences with more than 10 people, it's better for managing large teams compared to one-on-one solutions like Skype.
GoToMeeting also allows users to share their screens with each other, which is great for troubleshooting errors or resolving communication problems. Your remote team can't simply drop by each other's cubicles to help each other solve problems, but sharing screens is a great substitute.
The GoToMeeting user interface admittedly leaves much to be desired in the intuitiveness department, but what it lacks in usability it more than makes up for in video quality and conferencing features. Quite simply, it's just about the only videoconferencing tool on the market that's designed to meet the needs of enterprise-level organizations.
Tool - HelloSign: Seamlessly Get Remote Signatures Without Headaches
Getting signatures on contracts and project proposals is still a necessity for online businesses and remote workers, but sadly, it's not as simple or straightforward as meeting in person and just signing a piece of paper. Getting a remote signature on a contract has traditionally involved all manner of unnecessary complications like printing the contract, signing it, scanning it, and then emailing it. Even digital signature applications haven't typically been very easy to use – especially when multiple parties are involved.
But no more.
HelloSign is a gorgeous, highly secure eSignature tool that allows you to easily request signatures from up to 20 people at the same time – and then automatically send the contract to the signatories. HelloSign also offers convenient app integrations with Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Evernote, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox, and you can even add your company's branding to the documents you're having signed.
That means whether you're getting signatures on non-disclosure agreements, independent consultant contracts, or project budgets, it's easy to send documents to your team and get their signatures – or send a document with your signature to your team. And if you're determined to start running an entirely paperless business in order to help the environment or cut down on administrative inefficiencies, HelloSign is a great way to reduce your paper needs.
Managing a field team isn't easy, but with the right tools in place, you can overcome communication barriers, minimize inefficiencies, and keep your whole team productive and engaged. Want to learn more about how project management suites like Arkit can help you manage a remote team? Contact us today.