For many IT managers, the new normal has turned into just the normal way of doing business.
The COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through the business world, first in the form of closing offices around the world to then adapting to new workplaces. For IT professionals, the pandemic ushered in especially harsh new realities, as companies across all industries needed their IT teams to maintain network infrastructures. However, IT managers had to find the most effective way to achieve optimal network infrastructure maintenance with their IT teams working from home.
According to the results released from a research study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more than 70 percent of employers have found it difficult to establish remote workplaces. Paul Pellman, who is the CEO of computer software company Kazoo, explained the difficulty of establishing a remote workplace. “If this is the first time that managers are in charge of managing remote employees, it can be scary to navigate and ensure employees are productive, engaged, and thriving. The transition to remote communication removes the personal context that helps us interact with each other.”
Founder and Director of The Culture Builders, Jane Sparrow, emphasizes that creating remote workplaces for IT teams is much more than developing a new video communication platform. “If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly. This new remote working environment can also affect focus, a sense of team, and creativity. It’s not something that is often talked about, but if we are to help our teams stay healthy, happy, and ultimately productive, we have to recognize and manage the high-stress environment that remote working can create for many people.”
As more businesses move to remote and hybrid work arrangements, IT managers need to adjust their management strategies.
What Are the Best Practices for Managing Remote and Hybrid IT Teams?
The key for IT managers to master the new workplace normal is to learn how to loosen management control over their teams, while at the same time holding each IT team member accountable for meeting company performance goals.
Let’s review a few tips to make that happen.
Understand Worker Challenges
IT managers can expect to face four primary challenges in managing remote and hybrid workplaces. First, they have to understand the negative impact of workers not interacting with team members in person. Second, overdoing Zoom meetings can lead to a productivity-buster called video fatigue. Third, managing remote and hybrid workplaces lead to inevitable communication breakdowns. Finally, IT team members must learn how to manage distractions.
Understanding the challenges presented by the new workplace normal is the first step to address those challenges.
Establish Clear Productivity Goals
Transforming to a remote or hybrid workplace removes many of the formalities associated with office interactions. However, this does not mean IT managers should abandon setting productivity standards for their team members. The key is to establish productivity standards for each member of your team, without micromanaging them to accomplish their goals. For example, you can set a deadline of 10 workdays for a software developer to submit a new and improved code, with advance notice of at least 72 hours required if the developer cannot meet the deadline.
Provide the Right Technology Tools
As an IT manager, one of your responsibilities for managing a workplace involves providing each member of your team with the technology tools required to support the entire organization. Meeting the goal of providing the right technology tools starts by installing the appropriate apps and software programs for each team member’s remote IT network. Your IT team members should have access to remote digital communication files and tools, as well as access to hardware such as printers and fax machines.
Issue company laptops for IT team members who require some degree of mobility to attain optimal productivity. Ensure each IT team member operates from a highly secure and super-fast Internet connection to prevent costly communication disruptions. Each IT team member should install the preferred video conferencing tool such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but once again, do not overuse video conferencing as a remote communication tool.
Create an Employee Suggestion Forum
Managing a remote or hybrid workplace involves plenty of trial and error, but as an IT manager, you can reduce the number of errors by encouraging IT team members to discuss their experiences in a company-sponsored forum. Your IT team members can discuss how they manage the isolation of working away from their peers. Sharing stories on how to maintain focus while working from home and explaining remote workplace time management ideas can help team members adapt to the new workplace normal.
Your team members can even share their favorite restaurant for ordering pickup and delivery.
The Bottom Line: Overcome the Most Difficult Challenges
Remote and hybrid workplaces present difficult challenges that if not addressed, can dramatically hurt your company’s performance. Develop trust with each IT team member to encourage transparency. Spend more time getting to know each member of your IT team to help you mold the right management style for remote and hybrid workplaces. Above all, set reasonable expectations and hold each team member accountable for achieving those expectations.