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  • Writer's pictureDavid Camacho

How to Manage Remote Employees with Microsoft Teams

Managing a team within the traditional office space presents challenges, which have been widely discussed and researched. Now with remote work implemented globally, managers are facing new obstacles while trying to lead teams to success. For some, the transition to remote was smooth, but for the majority, it’s a task that requires new strategies. To successfully manage remote employees from afar, managers are turning to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. However, the platform must be accompanied by the right strategies.

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Challenges of Managing a Remote Workforce and Where Microsoft Teams Fits In

Over a third of US companies foresee half their staff working remotely from now on. Offering remote options is key to attracting better talent, lowering staff turnover, and potentially cutting overheads. Yet, with a remote workforce comes a unique set of challenges.

Remote employees can feel disconnected and lonely or stressed and unable to separate work from home. While at the same time remote work offers great flexibility, removes long commutes, and allows people to create a work environment to suit their needs. To truly benefit from the opportunities working from home presents, employees need guidance from managers and HR. Proper management boosts employee motivation and increases productivity.

Effectively managing remote employees relies on using the right technology in the best way possible. With the mass move to remote, more and more organizations adopted Microsoft Teams as a tool to facilitate virtual collaboration. Teams now has over 115 million daily users. Organizations are relying on this tool because of its power and potential, and also to make the most of their Microsoft 365 investment.

10 Strategies to Manage Remote Employees Successfully with Microsoft Teams

1. Provide the Right Technology

Businesses have always invested in the physical workplace. The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns confirmed that organizations now need to invest in the digital workplace, to ensure resilience and agility. Businesses can’t control a remote employee’s physical environment but they can create a better virtual one.

This virtual workspace is essential to remote employees, and the corporate intranet alone won’t make the cut. Microsoft Teams is a key component to integrate with an intranet and in turn provide an engaging collaboration platform. Microsoft Teams is one of the most popular collaboration tools, as it allows people to not only chat and call but share documents and work together in real-time.

Choosing to use Teams is just the first step. Managers then need to use it in a way that suits employees. Everyone communicates differently, some people like video calls while others want to send quick messages. Decide on what’s best for both parties.

2. Regular Check-Ins

Nearly half of remote employees fear that they miss out on important information. To avoid this, managers can arrange regular check-ins. Schedule a weekly Teams meeting with remote employees and ensure there is dedicated time to catch up. Setting time aside weekly to connect allows remote employees to feel noticed, voice any concerns, or give them the guidance they need.

Regular check-ins also allow managers to get a sense of an employee’s task load, ensuring they don’t have too much on their plate or can assign more responsibilities.

3. Outline Best Practices

In a physical office, managers could set an open door policy or scheduled office hours. It was also easy for employees to gauge when a manager was free because they could see them. In a virtual environment, these queues are lost. As businesses move away from the office, new guidelines are needed.

Microsoft Teams allows instant collaboration, through chats, channels, calls, and more. However, if an employee doesn’t know which to use, they become frustrated. To avoid confusion, set guidelines on where different types of collaboration can happen.

  • Set private channels for individual tasks and messages.

  • Create a team channel for more general information.

  • Define when employees should arrange a call, when an email might be more appropriate and when they simply send a message.

  • Ensure the creation of Teams is controlled to avoid duplicate teams.

It may also help to give guidelines on when a manager is more available. Perhaps Mondays are a busy day for meetings but Fridays are usually more open. Maybe evenings are calmer. Find what works best and inform your team.

4. Monitor Progress

Managers fear employees are not doing any work when at home. Employees in turn feel pressure to prove that they are. Despite the belief that remote employees slack off, research shows they are working two extra hours a week since moving remote during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, a focus on hours spent is counterproductive. Just like it’s easy for employees to sit idle in an office for hours, they can also stay active on Teams and do very little. Instead, to better manage remote employees managers should recognize work done and tasks completed. Microsoft Teams can help with their Planner integration. The Planner app allows teams to work together and projects, and with the To-Do feature, managers can assign tasks to employees. Apps and integrations are the secrets to making the most out of Teams.

5. Facilitate Teamwork

Solid teamwork is crucial to more productive and engaged employees. It happens when there is a culture of collaboration.

Teamwork might be more natural in a physical office where employees are together. In remote work, they rely on having the right technology. The first step is to provide employees with space for collaboration. Microsoft Teams is designed to facilitate teamwork and collaboration, but it doesn’t happen on its own.

Managers can help foster a culture of teamwork some conscious planning.

  • Schedule weekly Teams meetings: Encourage everyone to have their camera on, and use together mode.

  • Organize casual Teams coffee chats: Build team bonds, with informal chats. Use Microsoft Teams café background for a better virtual experience.

  • Create specific channels for collaboration: Outline what each channel is to be used for, to control the channel.

6. Ensure Face to Face Interactions

21% of remote workers struggle with loneliness. For anyone who lives on their own, this will only be amplified. However, one easily implemented change that can help is making video calls the default.

Turning on the camera for a Teams call can be intimidating, especially when employees work from home. Some people may be conscious of their surroundings, and not want co-workers to see inside their homes. Microsoft Teams backgrounds help by either blurring surroundings or offering a fake environment. Companies can also create a customized background. During Team meetings use together mode, so it feels like everyone is in the same room.

7. Prioritize Tasks

In a physical office, it’s easier to see when someone is overburdened. Seeing piles of paper and disorder are noticeable signs. A sentiment of stress also becomes obvious from the person’s behavior, like long hours, and taking lunch at their desk. When trying to manage remote employees, it’s harder to spot when someone is becoming overloaded.

Remote workers are hidden behind a screen. They may want to prove they are working hard and accept every task. Or, they may find it difficult to prioritize because it’s not as clear which assignments are high priority. Help employees prioritize tasks with a Teams integration like Microsoft Planner. With an at-a-glance overview of an employee’s tasks, it’s easier to notice when someone is over-run.

8. Ensure Communication Flows

As a manager, it’s important not to just give orders but to create a more participative environment. Top-down management styles are outdated and the key to effective communication is ensuring information flows both ways. Microsoft Teams allows for information to pass up, down, and across.

9. Recognize Wellbeing

40% of employees experienced burnout at work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stress and burnout are serious concerns that not only affect an employee’s productivity but also their wellbeing.

When employees are working remotely, it can become difficult to separate work and home life which quickly leads to overwhelm. Managers can help by checking in with employees, ensuring they are not overloaded, making sure they have the right equipment, and listening to their needs. Microsoft Teams can also help, with their new employee wellbeing features designed to improve mental health.

10. Manage the Space as well as its Users

If Microsoft Teams is going to be the collaboration tool for employees, then it also needs to be managed. Without proper control, Microsoft Teams can descend into chaos. Multiple teams, with no clear naming structure, cause headaches and frustrates employees. It’s essential that when employees log onto their workspace, it is structured and easy to use. You can enhance the employee experience and control Teams sprawl before it happens with a governance application like Powell Teams.

Learn more about how Powell Teams can help your organization create the best Teams environment. Come join the discussion on December 3rd, where we’ll be exploring the hybrid workplace and the role of Microsoft Teams.

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