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The 5 Fundamental Principles of Managing a Remote Team

managing remote team

In the wake of the corona crisis, remote workforces are booming. During the height of the pandemic, millions of workers set up home offices, in an abrupt shift to work online.

Now, as the first wave of the pandemic ebbs in many countries while hitting another crest in the US, it is becoming increasingly clear that remote teams are here to stay. In a recent poll, 77% of executives stated that they would be maintaining the current level of remote work, or even expanding it.

But, as many have discovered, managing a remote team poses a set of unique challenges. To meet them, new strategies and skills are necessary.

Considering that remote workforces will shape the business landscape in the long run, now is the time to focus on developing and employing them.

Here are five fundamental strategies that can help you to sustainably manage a remote team.

1 Set Expectations

When team members are working away from offices, the biggest productivity killer is a lack of structure. The first step in providing such a structure, and with it a solid basis for productivity, is to establish fixed expectations for every team member.

What do they need to do? Until when? When do they need to be reachable? Who do they report to? Who can they contact in the case of difficulties?

By answering these questions clearly, you establish a framework in which your remote team can thrive. Not only will each team member be aware of their own role and work requirements, but they will also know who to reach out to with what kind of issue. With the implementation of cloud computing, it has become easier to work from home.

A virtual agile environment is created through which you can monitor, edit, and even work together on a single platform. It not only reduces the overhead costs but also enhances the productivity and efficiency in a workforce.

Despite the technology, it will take some time for almost every individual in a workforce to adapt to such an environment. According to a renowned psychologist you tend to work in a more productive way only when the environment suits your work style.

2 – Schedule Check-Ins – And Stick to Them

With modern technology, holding virtual meetings is fast and easy like never before. However, holding too many meetings is a serious pitfall when it comes to managing remote teams.

Nobody wants to yawn their way through department-wide Zoom conferences that barely concern them. Especially since they could productively work on their individual assignments instead.

You can avoid this pitfall by scheduling fixed check-ins, sticking to the times that are set, and avoiding unnecessarily (video-)calling team members to see how they are doing.

The check-in schedule will take some initial tweaking in terms of frequency, scheduling, and gathering participants. Once set up, though, it provides temporal touch-points around which your team members can reliably structure their own activities.

Not constantly monitoring team members, or keeping them tied up in conferences, also demonstrates your trust in them and fosters independence.

Finally, you should invest time in finding the right tool for these check-ins, and team communication tools in general. Zoom may seem like the obvious choice for most teams, but there is a growing wealth of alternatives out there. Plus – many team collaboration platforms also include native (video-)calling functionalities.

With apps like zoom, google meet up, etc. you can always check in on your teammates. You can monitor the progress of a project by sharing your screens through these platforms. There is also this application called the Team Viewer which allows you to access your team’s desktop despite staying where you are.

This allows you to save time and helps you generate better results. A scheduled check-in should be set so that you are well updated on the work that is going on and can plan the next set of actions accordingly.

3 – Select the Right Team Collaboration Tool

Team collaboration tools are essential prerequisites for a distributed workforce. Depending on the platform, team managers and members can assign, schedule, and track tasks, message each other individually or in groups, make voice and video calls, share files, produce reports, and collaborate on documents.

Most also provide integrations with other popular business platforms.

Considering the wide variety of team collaboration tools currently available, and their varying features and capabilities, researching which tool best fits the needs of your team pays off in the long run.

Among the most popular collaboration tools currently available are Slack, which organizes workflows through discussion channels, Trello, a straightforward project management tool, and Basecamp, which targets bigger teams and supports entire companies. Asana is a choice if highly detailed reports are needed.

Depending on how big your team is, how varied its tasks, and which budget you are working with, you are sure to find the right fit for you.

With the ongoing global pandemic, it might be hard for some workforces to cope with the latest technology and thereby work on a specific platform. Workforces should give the employees the freedom to work on platforms in which they are comfortable with. This not only enhances the productivity of a team but also reduces the downtime to a considerable extent.

4 – Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Employees working from a home office often struggle to maintain a healthy balance between their private and business lives. If the office is only a few paces away from the bedroom, it is tempting to quickly check emails before going to sleep. And it is ever so much harder to relax on the couch in the evening when the latest sales figures are beckoning from the laptop on the desk in the corner.

One of the most important strategies for successfully managing a remote team, in the long run, is to ensure team members’ physical and mental health.

A crucial step in doing so is safeguarding personal time: Make clear that work times need to be adhered to with few set exceptions, and discourage work encroaching on their free time.

A simple, but very effective strategy is to set definitive limits on when team members need to be reachable. And actively encourage them to switch off work devices outside these times.

Managing the work balance while staying at home is quite difficult. You might be asked to work more than usual as you are at home. This should not be promoted. Just how previously a specific time was allotted for work, a similar procedure should be followed.

The employees should be asked to fix a specific time and during this time they should not indulge in any household chores. Likewise, they should not be disturbed when they have some leisure time. This way you can expect them to generate better results.

5 – Foster Team Spirit and Social Interaction

No chats at the water cooler, no gossip at the coffee cart, no shared lunch hour. Social relationships among team members suffer during remote work. To foster team spirit, and make collaboration run smoothly, provide your team with opportunities for social interactions, and encourage them.

Whether it’s a gossip/chat channel on Slack or a WhatsApp group for non-work topics (such as sharing pictures of pets and children, recipes, or weekend stories), setting up channels to exchange private tidbits will weld your team together. A friendly atmosphere should be created so that everyone feels free to express their thoughts,

Another great opportunity to boost team morale are events during which participants can let their hair down together, such as cocktail hour Zoom sessions.

Finally, teams also unite over more creative endeavors such as creating a shared playlist to listen to during work, discussing productivity strategies, or drawing up a common collection of recipes. The best way to motivate your team is by listening to everyone’s opinions and choosing the most suitable suggestion by taking everyone’s decision into account.

The Bottom Line

Until now, many businesses have worked with remote teams only to bridge the height of the pandemic, in the full expectation of going back to normal once it is over.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that remote work will only continue to gain in importance. This means that developing strategies to sustainably manage distributed teams is crucial.

With the right strategies based on the fundamental principles of managing remote teams, a distributed workforce becomes a solid business foundation, not just an emergency measure.

Only time will tell how employees will adapt to the current situation and how long it will take for them to generate specific results.

The post The 5 Fundamental Principles of Managing a Remote Team appeared first on ReadWrite.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Protect and Enable Your Remote Workforce

remote workforce

With more employees working from home today, it’s becoming harder to protect and enable a geographically distributed workforce. Remote work poses unique security challenges and risks that must be faced by employers. Also, companies must consider individual requirements of their employees workers, from enabling secure and fast Wi-Fi connection to ensuring employees feel engaged and motivated.

To help you mitigate security risks and enable your remote employees to work from the comfort of the homes, we’ve created this step-by-step guide. You’ll find the best remote workforce security practices and proactive measures you can take to keep your remote team engaged.

Step 1. Connect Your On-premises Infrastructure to Cloud

Cloud storage eliminates all data loss risks typically associated with local storage. Also, cloud storage is extremely reliable and safe in terms of data breaches and cyberattacks.

The benefits of cloud storage extend further beyond enhanced security. First off, cloud storage is generally more affordable, because cloud providers distribute the costs of their infrastructure and services across many clients. Also, cloud storage allows you to save more physical space and eliminates the need for hardware maintenance as much of your hardware won’t be necessary.

Another benefit of cloud storage is its mobility. Cloud storage enables us to work efficiently no matter the physical location.

Use cloud or web-based storage software that allows sharing and editing documents. Educate your employees on the benefits of cloud storage and develop guidelines for using cloud services.

Step 2. Review Which Software Your Remote Employees Need

After you’ve decided on your cloud storage policies, review which software your remote employees need to work productively from home. It’s easy to get lost in different types of software for remote work because there are just so many of them. Let us talk you through the most effective types of software your remote employees will need to stay productive.

Remote Desktop Software

The remote desktop software allows you to connect to a computer in another location for business purposes like file transfer, remote control, or desktop sharing. As a bonus, you can use remote desktop software for troubleshooting customer issues.

Group Chat Apps

When working remotely, you want to enable communication between your team members. That’s why you have to choose which team chat app to use unless you want to go all old school with using email for business communications.

Video Conferencing Software

When texting can’t fully replace the magic of human communication needed for productive work, video calls are certainly helpful. Video conferencing makes you feel like you’re in the same room with your co-workers and brings in the spirit of corporate culture essential to stay productive.

Screen recording tools

Sometimes, your employees will need to send screen recordings to each other. Choose screen recording tools that are super easy to use and offer extra features, like built-in annotations.

Additionally, ensure all of your employees have access to particular software they need to do their part of work effectively. Audit the software you use in the office and decide on how to provide easy access for remote employees.

Step 3. Set up Two-factor Authentication

Remote work requires extra security protection as there are more chances of security breaches and data leaks happening. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires users to provide a second piece of evidence (besides a password) before they can successfully log into the account.

Passwords are not sufficient enough to keep our data and accounts safe. Ultimately, 2FA is a second level of protection that helps prevent unauthorized access if the account information has been compromised.

Studies suggest that setting up multi-factor authentication can block over 99.9% of account compromise attacks. This means that two-factor authentication has the potential to bring the chance of stolen credentials within your organization to a minimum.

Step 4. Be Careful Allowing Your Employees to Use Their Personal Devices

Developing policies to address the use of personal devices for work-related purposes is the next step to protecting and enabling your remote workforce.

Experts claim that employees performing everyday work-related tasks on their personal devices present the highest cybersecurity risk. This risk increases dramatically when employers fail to establish policies on how to use personal devices for work-related purposes.

Besides developing and implementing policies and guidelines, you must figure out a way to recover data for departing employees. Let’s say one of your remote workers resigns or gets fired. What then happens to all the files a person has access to and stores on their laptop? Cloud-based storage is a part of the solution. Besides, you’ll have to establish a data recovery policy that works best for your business.

Step 5. Determine which endpoint protection your remote workers must use

After you’ve figured out the rules your remote employees should follow to do their work with the convenience of personal laptops, it’s time to determine the security policies they should follow.

The first thing you should do is identify which security software suits your remote workers must install on their personal devices. As a general security measure, all of your employees must enable the following software:

  • Firewall
  • Antivirus tools
  • Malware detection software
  • Cloud-based storage

Next, educate your employees on the best cybersecurity practices. You can use this list as a reference.

  • Educate your employees on the importance of creating strong passwords/passphrases or using 2FA for work and personal accounts.
  • Educate your remote workers about domain spoofing.
  • Educate your employees about phishing attacks and ways to prevent them.
  • Always use encrypted video conferencing and team chat apps.
  • Educate your remote workers on the importance of regularly installing software updates.

Step 6. Ensure Secure and Fast Wi-Fi

Did you know that 81% of chief information officers report their company experienced a Wi-Fi-related incident in the previous year? Using unsecured Wi-Fi networks increases the chances of security breaches, data leaks, and third-party control. That’s why the next step you should take is ensuring your remote employees have access to a fast and secure Wi-Fi connection.

The easiest solution is requiring your remote employees to use a virtual private network (VPN) when they work from home or, especially, from public spaces. VPN works by routing the device’s internet connection through a private server.

A VPN makes it impossible to track data as it technically comes from a VPN rather than a user’s computer. Remote workers’ connections, the, remain private and anonymous no matter the network you’re using.

You can use VPN to shield one’s browsing activity from cyberattacks, prevent data leaks, and enable safe data transfers.

Step 7. Develop a contingency plan for risk management

Developing a contingency plan is the final step to protecting and enabling your remote workforce. A contingency plan is a fundamental risk management tool as it foresees potential threats and guides remote employees in stressful situations.

For example, in case your remote workers lose their laptop with sensitive work-related information stored on it, a contingency plan is an absolute must. It should describe various situations and step-by-step instructions on how to handle them effectively.

Keeping Employees Motivated in the Work-From-Home Conditions

While many employees are encouraged to work from home at first, this excitement typically wears off over time. Oftentimes, deadlines, and commitments are not enough for motivating remote employees.

How do you keep them engaged and motivated? Experts from Ivory Research suggest that most of the methods you currently employ for your in-house employees can be used to inspire motivation among your remote workers. Here are some simple methods that can be used for keeping your employees engaged in the work-from-home conditions.

  • Recognize remote employees for great work and other contributions.
  • Make sure to clearly communicate tasks you’re expecting to be completed.
  • Give your remote employees access to project updates, mission statement, and company performance records.
  • Bring remote team members together regularly and emphasize the importance of culture within your company.
  • Provide remote workers with time management tools and resources.

The Bottom Line

Remote work doesn’t have to put the security of your organization at risk. Following these steps will help you protect your company from cybersecurity threats while enabling geographically distributed teams to work productively.

Here are the top takeaways.

  • Establishing clear and comprehensive policies is key to securing your remote workforce.
  • Make sure to provide your remote employees with clear guidelines on using their personal laptops for work without posing a threat to the company’s security.
  • Leverage remote collaboration technology, including video conferencing, cloud storage, and group chat apps to enable productive work.
  • Ensure all of your remote workers have access to a secure and fast Wi-Fi connection.
  • And finally, keep your employees engaged and motivated in the work-from-home conditions.

Image Credit: Pexels

The post A Step-by-Step Guide to Protect and Enable Your Remote Workforce appeared first on ReadWrite.