Five basic principles for remote management

Simon Bos

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The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapid increase in remote working. Although remote work does not work for everyone as some jobs simply require on premise access, remote work has become the new normal.

Remote work does not seem to hurt productivity. In fact many publications claim that remote work boost productivity as there is less distraction compared to a standard office environment. On top of that it saves commuting time and provides an opportunity for employers to save on office space and travel expenses.

"Remote work has become the new normal".

For many years I have worked from a home office successfully, in global settings with global responsibilities. Since the COVID-19 outbreak many people have asked me whether I could share best practise on remote work or remote management.

This post is not so much about promoting or sharing the benefits of working remotely. It is more about how, in my view, remote work can be done effectively by taking into account five basic principles:

Tools and infrastructure - No surprise but without the right tools and infrastructure it will be hard to work remotely in an efficient and productive manner. Files should be available digitally in a secured network environment with backup. Employees should have access to the right communication tools with the ability to have high-quality video conferences.

Due to COVID-19 many people do work from home, often at their kitchen table surrounded by their kids as school or childcare facilities are closed. Although one cannot always avoid such circumstance during a lock-down, this is not conducive for remote working. For remote work to be effective it is important to have a dedicated workspace at home or perhaps a flex office that allows you to focus and to work quietly without being disturbed.

Be aware of the information flow - When everyone works remotely this would be less of an issue. The difficulty comes with a hybrid work environment with some employees working from home and some or the majority of the employees working in the office. Those who are physically present in the office might have better access to information or leaders compared to those working from home. There is a risk for remote workers to miss out on important information due to their remote status. Leaders should be aware of this and ensure the appropriate information flows are in place.

Empower - Interestingly enough, the pandemic has triggered a sharp increase in demand for software packages to monitor employees. At the same time, those who do well in remote settings are often individuals who are independent, self-disciplined with good organizational and communication skills. These qualities do not always go well in a work environment driven by for instance micro management. Effective remote teams require autonomy. Empowerment and trust are crucial elements to be successful in remote management and important to keep team members motivated and involved.

Communication - Clear and effective communication on strategies, expected outcomes as well as expectations from each team member is key. Also, it is important to create a shared vision to get everyone on board and to create awareness on for instance project schedules, processes and deadlines along with a clear follow up on tasks, objectives and responsibilities.

Team size - Research shows that teams with more than ten members are more difficult to manage remotely than smaller teams. If your team is large, I would recommend finding a way to split your team calls into smaller audiences as this will facilitate collaboration and creation of personal relationships among the different team members.

Obviously there is much more to say about remote work and remote management and I will further elaborate on this in future blogs. My experience is that personal interactions remain important, particularly with project kick-off meetings or when it comes to bringing across complex messages. Despite all the communication tools available nowadays, having the opportunity to meet team members in person now and then will help and facilitate the remote management process.  

Feel free to contact me for further information.

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