Remote work is becoming a new norm. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, 7 millions of people were already working remotely in the US. 78% of managers surveyed listed telecommuting as one of the most effective ways to increase employee retention.
Telecommuting is valued by employees as it offers better work-life balance, reduces time and money spent on commuting, and allows people to work at the pace convenient to them. Yet, remote work also brings such challenges as the necessity to manage time and schedules, make independent decisions and communicate effectively. And you as a manager play an important role in helping your subordinates overcome these challenges.
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Being vague when setting tasks to your subordinates can be costly for business and the progress of the project. Setting expectations that aren’t specific or clear inevitably leads to misunderstanding. If you ask an employee to analyze the success of the Facebook ad campaign, you might not receive the result you’ve planned. Specify what exactly you’d like to get: “Please analyze the click-through rate and return on ad spent for the last 6 months by tomorrow morning”. Once you’ve set a clear task, you are likely to get the desired result as soon as you need it.
When working remotely, employees might feel left out and disconnected from the office, which impacts their productivity and morale. The best way to prevent it is to schedule regular check-ins to discuss goals, tasks, and answer the questions your subordinate might have. Depending on your workload and the employee’s scope of responsibility, the frequency of these check-ins might vary from daily to weekly. Yet, consistency matters most – if you agreed to get in touch every evening, don’t skip these one-on-ones. Ideally, you should opt for video calls instead of voice calls. Since most information in communication is sent nonverbally, this will foster understanding between you and the employee.
The majority of setbacks in remote work occur due to miscommunication. Missed messages and calls, no clear guidelines on communicating project milestones and similar roadblocks sabotage the team’s productivity. As a manager, you should define the rules for communication if they aren’t outlined in the company’s employee handbook. Define which technology tools (Slack, Skype, Google Meet, etc.) the team should be using for each type of messages. For example, you might insist that your subordinates send files and regular information via emails, brainstorm ideas in the Slack chat and use FaceTime for urgent information and updates.
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The open-door policy is extremely helpful for staying informed and letting your employees feel valued and heard. Yet, if you allow your team to get in touch with you whenever they find it convenient, you might find yourself being constantly interrupted and struggling to focus on your own tasks. The optimal strategy is to set up hours when you can be contacted for non-urgent matters. Specify the channel of communication, too – email, phone call, or Zoom. In addition to being technically available, you also need to create the atmosphere of trust so that the employees could confidently approach you in any situation.
As the famous quote says, the ability to lead others starts with the ability to know yourself. In particular, you need to understand your optimal schedule, practices and tools which improve your productivity. Learn what hours you’re most productive at, and adjust your schedule accordingly if possible. Similarly, understand how you need to organize your day to complete all items in your to-do list with less effort. Try out different tools and apps for remote workers and utilize the most helpful ones. As you understand what works for you, you’ll be able to give recommendations to the subordinates as per making their remote work more effective.
Let’s face it: working from home is filled with distractions. Although your employees are expected to spend eight hours a day in front of the computer, they will inevitably get interrupted by other activities at home. If you want to maximize the productivity of your team, the best strategy is to stop micromanaging. Instead, set clear tasks with deadlines as suggested above. As long as your subordinate delivers as expected or over-delivers, how many hours they actually put in is less important. And, if someone struggles to get the tasks done on time, have a candid dialogue with them rather than forcing them to work more hours.
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As you don’t have the privilege of interacting with your subordinates in person, it’s easy to lose touch with them. That’s why it’s important that you promote openness and approachability. Inform everyone that they can reach out to you to discuss any issue, both professional and personal ones. For example, if your subordinate’s performance declines, have an open conversation with them and discuss the strategies on how you can help them be more effective, for example, by suggesting flexible hours or changing theirs scope of responsibility. If the employees know they can discuss everything with you, it will promote trust to you and thus improve your influence as a manager.
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It’s easy to recognize and reward an employee in the office as they’ve completed the project ahead of the schedule or increased sales. Yet, doing so remotely confuses many managers. On the other hand, if the employees don’t feel valued, they might consider quitting or finding ways to turn hobby into job. The solution? You might want to recognize the subordinate’s contribution during the group meeting or video conference. Or, you can send them a thank-you letter for great performance. Small incentives such as a paid day off, a bonus or paid training also work great.
For better productivity and engagement, it’s important to form a personal bond between your team members. Accomplishing this remotely is harder than on-site, yet, it’s possible. Firstly, in addition to scheduling check-ins, schedule group meetings where the team could communicate on non-working subjects, share their news, and updates. Some companies even organize remote ‘pizza Fridays’ with pizza delivered to all employees at the same time. The methods may vary, but your key goal is to let people socialize and build personal connections. If they have such an opportunity, they’ll feel less isolated while staying at home and more productive while dealing with other team members.
If your ambition is to get promoted to the leadership role, use the tips below to speed up your vertical growth within the company:
Spontaneous promotions happen, but they are rather an exception from the rule. To get a promotion, you need to set up a career plan for year or more. The best timing to do it is during your next performance review. Outline your goal and determine the areas you lack in so that you could develop the needed skills. For instance, if you have troubles making decisions independently or giving feedback to your colleagues, ask for projects that can help you develop those skills.
If you want to get noticed, you need to be visible. It’s a bit tougher if you’re working remotely, but still possible. Take charge if the boss asks to assist with an urgent or complex project. Look at what can be improved in the company’s work, and suggest the solutions – for example, better tech tools for communication. Managers like employees who take the initiative in handling issues and are proactive.
Performing well under no supervision is important, yet not sufficient to secure a promotion. Ideally, you should be able to manage the project you work in and handle the issues that arise without guidance or instructions. If you can handle the project through all stages without asking for boss’s help, you are ready for a promotion. Making the life of your boss easier is the number one characteristic of employees that get an advancement.
Your boss might not be aware that you’re aiming for a promotion, so inform them about your goal. If your company has a strong culture of employee development, they’ll provide you with coaching and resources needed to gain the needed skills. Yet, you might need to advocate for yourself to prove that you deserve a promotion. One of the best ways to do it is to update your resume with skills and successful projects you’ve contributed to. To create a resume for a promotion, it’s helpful to find a resume professional to write my winning resume for me.
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