Managing a Remote Team for Your ECommerce Business
Once seen as a flexible privilege, remote work is now the reality for most employees around the world. While many companies were already leaning into the trend, others now have no choice in the age of coronavirus.
With the cases of COVID-19 continuing to spread, wreaking havoc on companies, communities and the economy, bosses are relying on the ability of remote work to continue business operations and bring in profit.
In fact, most brick and mortar stores that were forced to close due to state and federal health mandates, have made the switch to online retail. Still, information surrounding remote work is scarce regarding the management of 100 percent remote teams.
While ecommerce companies by nature employ people from around the world for various tasks, it doesn’t hurt to make sure your business is adjusting the best way.
Below is some advice, best practices and strategies for ecommerce businesses that need to manage remote teams.
MANAGING A REMOTE TEAM FOR ECOMMERCE BUSINESS
As the owner, CEO or manager, you’re the leader in charge of a team. This means you’ve likely hand selected the right people for specific positions to help you run a successful business. But with this role comes much responsibility, including to guide, motivate and provide the necessary tools and resources to complete each task.
Not all these things will come naturally. In fact, if you’re like most people, you’ll be better at some than others.
One of the most challenging aspects of managing a remote team is, wait for it, how remote it is. For generations people have gotten used to being in the same space for the duration of a typical 9 to 5. Today, the remote work environment has created a challenge in collaborative efforts.
Still, there are different ways to adapt and thrive.
- Face to face group team calls via Zoom
- Collaborative platforms such as Google docs, that provide access and for purposes of editing and commenting
- Brainstorm sessions in virtual or audio-only meetings so team members can bounce ideas off one another
- Screenshots that team members can markup and annotate digitally
DON’T MICROMANAGE YOUR REMOTE TEAM
Just because you’re separated by geographic location, doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of micromanaging employees. All it takes is a few words on the computer or over the phone and boom—you’ve gone and done it.
Instead of falling into the role of a “helicopter boss” show that you care about the work team members produce by trusting they’re using their time wisely. Remote work offers employees flexibility but not each person can get the same task done at the same level of quality within the same amount of time.
That being said, focus on what they produce and in the meantime give them the benefit of time, flexibility and autonomy. In the end, their work should speak for itself.
With remote work, (apart from meeting a deadline), there are no set work hours. This is part of what makes remote work so great—the employee can get the work done during hours when it’s most convenient for them, when they’re less likely to be interrupted (during the age of distance learning). It’s up to you—the employer—to set predetermined deadlines and expectations.
Remember, if you’ve hired the right people for each job they’ll take it seriously and adhere to the deadlines and expectations you’ve set. You won’t need to worry about them pulling their weight.
BE ACCESSIBLE, COMMUNICATIVE AND CONNECTED
As in any relationship, communication is key, which means as the head of the company you’ve got to put focus here. Treat it as an opportunity, not a challenge so your team members feel supported and confident in getting their work done.
A great remote tool for communication is Slack, a popular chat app used by companies worldwide. Chats enable quick and easy communication between team members while allowing you to check in with employees to connect and collaborate, as well as encourage conversation.
If possible, try and schedule meetings during particular days and times so they know when to be available. Some examples could be at the beginning and end of each week to touch base on what’s expected and again to discuss what’s complete or, once a week to discuss what was completed last week and what’s on the coming week’s agenda.
Checking in via Zoom gives people a chance to see their colleagues. For any meetings that people can’t attend, record them and send out links afterward. This face to face option helps foster collaboration and camaraderie, which lends itself to business productivity.
REMOTE TEAM FLEXIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Help hold remote employees accountable? There’s an app for that. It’s called Asana, a web and mobile application that helps teams organize, track, and manage their work and get more done. There’s also Trello, which essentially does the same thing.
Keep in mind when assignment work however, that some people are more productive when working outside of traditional working hours and should be encouraged to do so. For some that means before dawn and others it’s after 9 p.m.
In addition, with the threat of COVID-19 keeping many kids for distance learning instead of in school, parents are forced to find any spare moment possible to dedicate to work.
Obviously, some employees need to work set hours depending on the scope of their job. The point here is, be flexible if possible. Let your team members be individuals and do what works best for them.
DON’T HAVE UNNECESSARY MEETINGS WITH YOUR REMOTE TEAM
Aside from being micromanaged, this is perhaps the most griped about issue in the workplace. Seen often as a company blight, meetings that provide no value is only a waste of time for you and your employees.
If an email can say it succinctly, use that form of communication. For example, a weekly or monthly newsletter can share updates, wins, losses and upcoming plans in company-wide emails.
While check-ins, company-wide updates and team-building calls can be equally essential if they’re productive, be ready to cancel meetings if they become unnecessary. Don’t use this as an opportunity to get around the virtual water cooler.
INVEST CREATIVELY IN YOUR REMOTE TEAM FOR YOUR ECOMMERCE BUSINESS
One of the best things about being a remote company is not having the associated costs of physical overhead. Consider using any “extra” money to incentivize or reward remote team members or otherwise put that money toward making your workers’ lives better.
Investing in your staff builds trust, promotes productivity, and optimizes team happiness.
A few ways to invest in your remote team include:
- Paying for co-working space memberships (a necessity during COVID-19) so they can change up the scenery
- A monthly stipend to cover the costs of food and drinks who prefer to work out of local coffee shops
- Purchasing tools for the job such as phones and computers for their employees on an as-needed basis
- Provide a membership for virtual fitness classes
- Provide a hardware/software budget so team members can keep developing their skills
At the end of the day, your ecommerce business is only as effective as your team is. And the best way to run a successful remote-based company is to have leadership that’s communicative, accessible, flexible and grateful.
Think of it this way—the company culture you create can set the foundation for overall employee happiness and success for your ecommerce business.
Now what are you waiting for? Get to work!