Managing a remote team of employees can be difficult, especially for managers who have always been able to see their employees in the office during the work week. How do you delegate tasks properly? How do you maintain order and efficiency? How do you know your employees are even working when you have no way to watch them? These are all common concerns for those new to the management of remote teams. In order to better serve healthcare providers, this blog article is intended to provide our readers with basic tips and best practices for forming, organizing, and maintaining your team in a remote work environment.
Setting Expectations is Key
The best way to avoid uncertainty and confusion among your newly formed remote team is to make it clear from the beginning which team members have what responsibilities, as well as what your performance expectations of them from the start. Establishing responsibilities and roles right from the start is crucial to forming an efficient remote team and promoting an immediate sense of organization and accountability. Make sure everyone knows what hours they are to be available, what expected response times are on calls, emails, etc. and that random “check-ins” should be expected.
Use All Available Technology
A strong and efficient remote team cannot be built on a foundation of only emails and phone calls. You should equip them with all the technological tools they need to communicate and collaborate easily and effectively. In today’s online world, there are plenty of software tools available for videoconferencing, live chats, direct messaging, etc. for practices with EHR and Practice Management solutions, many of these tools are already built-in and readily available. Practices should check with their EHR/PM providers to find out what tools and solutions are available to them.
Create a Deliverables Schedule
The best way to help your staff stay on task is to create and maintain a deliverables schedule. Every project needs to have a clearly defined timeline and set deadline for completion. You might consider breaking up large or important projects into incremental deadlines, setting dates for 25%/ 50%/ 100% delivery. This will allow you to track progress on long-term or crucial projects, when needed. This schedule should be updated regularly and kept in a shared file location so it can be viewed at any time.
For remote teams, it is a good idea to touch base regularly. This can be done weekly or even daily, depending on your team’s needs. Assemble your team online via videoconferencing or conference call, for a brief rundown of the day’s or week’s deliverables. Allow each team member to share what they have recently accomplished as well as what they plan to be working on for the day. Take notes on the progress of ongoing projects. At the end of the session, be sure to give everyone a chance to ask any questions they may have. Regular conferencing with your remote team will help you maintain accountability while better enabling everyone on your team to stay on task. Also, take this as an opportunity to acknowledge the accomplishments of your team and recognize outstanding performers. Lastly, the regular interaction among you and your team members will encourage morale by helping the team stay connected even when everyone is working apart.
Learn to Adjust & Be Ready to Adapt
It is important for you as the team leader to be flexible and stay ready to adjust or adapt as needed. For example, there may be a bit of a learning curve for some members of your team, especially those who have never experienced working in a remote environment. Be sure to adapt to each team member’s pace accordingly. Also, if a deadline needs to be altered due to an unexpected occurrence taking priority, there is nothing wrong with adjusting the deliverables schedule to accommodate.
Make Time to Minimize “Virtual Distance”
In a remote work environment, easy for team members to feeling disconnected from each other. This is sometimes referred to as “virtual distance” and it can negatively affect a remote team’s morale and efficiency. It’s important to make time for a little online fun every now and then by holding virtual events to encourage closeness and team building. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Virtual Potluck or Happy Hour
Schedule a day for the team to have lunch or happy hour together.
- Virtual Surprise Party
Is a team member celebrating a birthday or important life event? Schedule a “cover up” meeting with incognito title and surprise the special guest.
- Pet Show & Tell
Do you have a lot of animal lovers on your team? Do a show and tell!
- Pajama Party
Have a day where everyone is encouraged to wear their silliest or favorite pajamas.
- Theme Days
This is a great repeatable event. Choose a different theme each week on a set day, such as a silly t-shirt day or superhero day.