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Managing remote teams effectively

Cloud technology and mobile devices have made it easier for employees to get work done outside of the office.

Cloud technology and mobile devices have made it easier for employees to get work done outside of the office. While this can increase individuals' flexibility and productivity, it can also make it difficult for teams to work effectively.

There were an estimated 13.4 million people working from home in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This figure is rising quickly, particularly in technology and science-based jobs as the number of work-from-home employees in these sectors grew 69 percent  between 2000 and 2010. While it can be challenging to manage a virtual workforce, there are some tips managers can use to boost their teams' performance.

Writing for Forbes, management professor Sebastian Reiche stated that the first step to overseeing remote workers is to ensure managers are available. Employees need to know that they can reach their boss if they have questions or problems. Scheduling regular meetings to check progress and gauge workloads improves communication and helps build connections among team members.

In addition to managers being available for remote workers, Reiche noted that team members should be encouraged to support each other to generate higher levels of engagement. Employee reward recognition programs are a valuable tool when it comes to helping teams bond. Acknowledging key contributions to successful projects shows everyone that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. This can not only provide motivation for individuals, but if done properly can bring teams closer together.

Using technology to improve team management
Business Insider reported that companies should utilize social recognition to galvanize workers. With remote teams, this can be accomplished by using Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools. Encouraging workers to post pictures, and participate in discussions online brings teams closer together.

"Volunteers thrive off getting recognition for their good deeds," the source stated. "It can be powerful if you give them a kind word or write them a personal note, but it's sometimes even more powerful if you post their picture on Facebook doing what they love. A Facebook post of our volunteers packing bags or delivering books to the local hospitals always gets a ton of shares, comments and activity."

At other times, recognition can be made more personal. Taking the time to send a handwritten note or acknowledging hard work with a customized reward may boost motivation. When managers are creative in their approach to recognize their employees and bring teams closer together, even individuals working remotely see an increase in productivity.

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