Looking for the best ways to be a great remote boss?
We have some for you!
At Support Adventure, our founder Eric Muth has led a team of 40+ staff members on four continents, all from his laptop.
Here are the ways he is able to do it.
1 – Support the lifestyles of your staff
In order to make a great remote working culture, showing empathy for the lifestyles of your team members helps you in establishing rapport, connection and ultimately loyalty with your staff. It also helps your staff feel tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to work for your company, which motivates them to not screw it up!
The biggest ways that you can be supportive in what is going on in the lives of your staff are:
- Care about how your company affects their long term goals.
- Know the barriers and boundaries of their situation working from home. If someone on your team has children for example, that will be a variable that affects their day that you have to respect.
- Understand how a staff member’s remote position is a benefit to where they are in life and how you can optimize the position for their desired lifestyle.
Much of our staff are expats living in Europe, Asia and South America, so we have to be understanding about how their lifestyle of living abroad is enabled by working for us as well as any challenges they face in their location or living situation which we may need to adapt to.
It is more advantageous for you to not only think about how employing people benefits you, but also how the job they are doing and the life it enables benefits them.
2 – Set your team up with the right equipment…
…Or if you can’t do that, advise them how to buy effective equipment for remote working themselves.
The right equipment improves the quality of your meetings and the experience of your clients. The sooner you can ensure that your remote staff has the optimal equipment, the more professional your business will look and feel to yourself and others in phone and video calls.
Here is a table of common equipment you should supply if you can, as well as things they should have themselves when working remotely:
|Equipment You Should Provide (if you can)||Equipment They Should Have|
|A high quality (Sennheiser recommended) headset for calls and meetings||Stable & reliable internet at home|
|A webcam which gives realistic, high quality images of them for video calls||2nd source of internet–typically a phone (they can tether an internet connection with their phone) on 4G|
|Good laptop with right standard of security (you can provide this if their own laptop doesn’t cut it for the tasks of your company)||Decent laptop or desktop which can be used as a backup to their company provided laptop|
|External monitors (if it helps them do the job)||A backup power supply if living in areas which might have power cuts|
The benefit of you providing equipment for new hires is that they can immediately get started working to your standards.
Not all equipment you provide needs to be the most expensive item on the market either. For only $300-$400, you can go to Amazon to find used Thinkpads with an i5 processor, 8gb Ram and SSD, which should do the trick for most work.
3 – Encourage routines for focused work and mental health
Many people incorrectly assume that remote working will be a walk in the park because they don’t have to leave their home. The truth is, remote working can be more challenging for that very reason. The loss of routine can be detrimental to productivity when there is no sense of consequence for not showing up to an office everyday.
It is important that you encourage your staff to to have routines at home so that they do not fall into an apathy rut. You can even suggest things they were already doing when they were working from an office. Here are some easy routines your staff can get started with which you can suggest to them:
- Accomplish some task at home before officially starting the work day (that task can be anything from folding their laundry to going to buy groceries.
- Wake-up well before your shift starts.
- Exercises before or after work.
- Write in a journal before or after work.
- Work from a different room than your bedroom if you can, or work from a desk or table.
- Remove distractions. Turn off the TV and set your phone to silent.
- Set boundaries with other people in your home to not disturb you, whether they are your children, partner, roommate or a family member.
- Leave your apartment during your lunch break to eat out or go for a walk.
- Look away from the monitor frequently and focus out the window.
- Get up and stretch throughout the workday.
It is very easy for people to fall into the trap of working from their bed and not leaving their house all day. Giving tips for how to develop a productive routine is very valuable for managing your remote team.
4 – Choose the best software for your team
Depending on what type of business you have, you will need software to help keep your team connected, whether those are project management softwares, CRMs, ticketing systems, chat systems, etc.
There are alway conversations online about which of these types of systems are the best, but you have to objectively understand what works for your operations and management style. Here are some things you should consider.
- Does a software’s functionality work with your daily tasks?
- Does a particular software make sense for your industry?
- Does the price point make sense for everything included in the service?
- How well can the staff communicate with each other?
- Does the workflow of a software mirror how you would like to accomplish tasks in your company?
- Can you write an effective and easy to follow policy on how your staff can use this and will that use of the software actually benefit the productivity?
- Can you hold your staff accountable to their work by looking at the software from the background?
Take the necessary time to figure out what is best for your tasks. What works well for a marketing company might not work well for an IT company. And what works well for a large business might not work for a small one.
We scaled our business using various softwares that made sense for our daily operations, but an accounting firm or an e-commerce business might despise our softwares of choice. These are the types of things you have to take into account.
5 – Set expectations
The first thing you should do when training new staff is to give them a list of things they will be held accountable for.
We suggest you establish a centrally indexed system linking role sheets and checklists of what you expect each employee to do and the tasks they must complete every day. The more your staff follows this system of their role sheet and checking off their completed tasks, the less you have to micromanage every detail of your business.
Here are some examples of documentation to include on a role sheet:
- How to clock in and start the day.
- List things they should check each morning.
- List things they should check at the end of their shift.
- How often they should check their email, and other email policies.
- How they should budget and track their time each day.
- How to communicate with other staff members.
- How to handle HR issues, like asking for time off or being late to work
When you make it clear with well-indexed documentation of what the expectations are of your staff, you then have a framework that holds them accountable to what they have to do each day.
6 – Establish communication policies
Clear communication is one of the core values in our company. You can reduce the amount of unnecessary and non-urgent communication you have by simply organizing points of contact.
Within our company, we have organized our communication according to urgency:
|Chat||Video meetings booked in advance|
|Email (only when the subject says “Urgent”)||Ticketing system|
By doing this, we have trained our staff to be more organized by reporting on the progress of their tasks mostly in our ticketing system. This way, tasks do not get lost or forgotten about in the chat or email and management can check in on progress on specific issues with ease.
By restricting chat and phone calls to only urgent matters, you significantly reduce the amount of instances they even need to be used.
Alt: Reducing the number of non-urgent calls will help enforce your remote team management policies.
We have also streamlined the use of email for the sake of everyone. We mostly use email for a few things:
- As a go-to place to ask your staff about something non-urgent, and vice versa.
- The place where you update staff with news about the company or a staff member’s individual role.
- Anything private which needs to be off the system where everyone sees it.
It is important that you create documentation for your policy as well. If you just tell your staff what to do and assume they will remember everything you said two months later, you have set yourself up for failure.
A document that everyone can access at any time is the best way to go. You should be as specific as possible and include details like:
- Which communication systems are mandatory or not.
- What types of email messages staff should be sending.
- How to use the chat and how not to use it.
- How and when to book meetings.
- When to make phone calls.
- How and when to escalate urgent situations to management.
Of course you can include other details that fit with your communication priorities.
You should also have weekly meetings as a means of creating non-urgent regular communication.
We hold meetings with Zoom, which accomplishes a few things:
- It gives everyone on the team a chance to catch-up, see each other again and feel a sense of community.
- It creates a routine for your staff and the daily tasks they perform when they have to report weekly about their progress.
- Each employee gets to feel like a valued member of the team as they share how their tasks positively impacted the company that week.
- No one wants to look or feel their worst on video. Studies have shown that getting ready and putting on your favorite outfit when working from home increases productivity and positivity.
You should hold regular Zoom meetings for each department and stay connected with your management with senior staff-only meetings.
Your life as a remote boss will be so much easier when communication is mostly confined to a few places and everyone regularly follows the guidelines you established.
7 – Be flexible
Being flexible with your staff is a must. You might feel a heightened sense of paranoia when someone on your team says they have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 1pm on Tuesday. You might wonder if that is actually true or if they are using that as an excuse to do something else.
But do not become a skeptical boss. As long as your staff is following procedures, then it should not be too hard for you to trust them when life gets in the way. Be understanding if an employee:
- Has to leave in the middle of the day to pick-up their kid from school.
- Has a doctor’s appointment.
- Is sick.
- Might arrive late to or leave early from their shift if they have a legitimate reason.
- Has an emergency.
There are other unforeseen situations that might affect an employee’s schedule. Maybe those situations are not as dire as being sick, but you should still be understanding about it.
As long as an employee doesn’t make a habit of needing time off to the point where you feel like your kindness is being taken advantage of, there is no reason to not be flexible with them. Flexibility also helps foster an enjoyable experience where your staff likes working remotely for you.
8 – Listen to feedback
A remote work environment is definitely trickier than an office environment when it comes to reading the room. So ask for feedback and adapt accordingly. Learn what is working for some people and why. Check in with your staff and see how their lifestyle outside of work is complimenting their virtual routines. The more you mould your system to accommodate the lives of your team, the happier everyone will be. And most importantly, potential clients and recruits will be excited by the positive reputation that precedes you.
We hope these tips have helped you on your quest to become the best remote boss you can be. Let us know in the comments below if you have some ideas of your own that you will implement in your leadership style!