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Managing Expectations and Creating a Remote Team Culture

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How do your remote employees feel about your team culture?

As a leader, it’s crucial to create a positive work culture for your remote team, especially because accountants are increasingly working from home. Focusing on communicating your expectations and establishing a positive work culture will help your remote staff thrive and increase their productivity. 

Gusto, partnered with CPA Academy, delivered an exceptional webinar about communicating and managing remote staff titled “The Top 5 Critical Things to Manage a Remote and Global Workforce.” You can watch the full webinar here

In addition to this webinar article, Part Two, be sure to check out Part One and Part Three of this webinar series. Part One covers the basics of communicating with remote employees, and Part Three covers how to hire the best remote employees for your firm. 

In this part, you’ll learn from Nicholas Sinclair, the founder of The Outsourced Accountant (TOA) Global. Nicholas has worked with remote employees for ten years, and his company employs over a thousand remote staff members. In this article, he’ll teach you about managing your expectations with remote employees, why you should avoid overworking your staff, and the importance of maintaining cultural rituals while working remotely. 

Manage expectations and understand individuals

When working with your remote staff, you must manage your expectations for them as they work from home. This is especially crucial for staff working from home for the first time: 

“The key is managing expectations. … I think it’s being very clear with your team around expectations, and the team understanding what your expectations [for] them are, and … having some flexibility [when needed].”

Nicholas Sinclair

You need to be flexible with your team members, especially during difficult times. You need to communicate consistently and effectively to establish your expectations with each team member. A key part of being flexible and managing expectations is understanding how personal lives impact each individual employee: 

“[Understand] how this affects each of your team members. … Every one of your team members is different.”

Nicholas Sinclair

People face distinct challenges based on their familial and living situations. Some people face the challenge of watching their kids while working because of their childcare needs. Your employees with children may need a great deal of flexibility rather than strict, structured hours. 

Man sitting at kitchen table with young kid next to him referencing his laptop

Another challenge some employees may face is isolation and loneliness. Some of your employees might live alone and have emotional difficulties while working in seclusion. To address the isolation of your employees, you should maintain your work culture and regularly check in with your team members.

In summary, you need to be ready to meet the individual needs and challenges of your remote employees to ensure their well-being and increase your firm’s productivity. 

Avoid overworking and focus on results

One critical way to manage your team remotely is to ensure that they’re not overworking. When your employees overwork, their work performances will decline. Focus on the effectiveness of your staff rather than the number of hours they work: 

“To get the best out of my people, they need to be their best. They need to be refreshed, [and] they need to be mentally capable of the hours they work. I’d rather them work less hours and be more effective than work more hours and be less effective or make mistakes.”

Nicholas Sinclair

Overworking is detrimental to your firm’s performance. Many remote workers struggle to maintain a balance between business and leisure time when doing both at home: 

“One of the biggest challenges we’ve seen is the … separation of work and home. … I’ve seen many statistics that show that people are working more hours than ever during these times because they are always in work mode. Now, we know to get the most out of our team and to have our team most effective that that is not something that is going to be sustainable long-term.”

Nicholas Sinclair

To discourage overworking,  Nicholas’ company, TOA Global, ensures that its employees have a wrap-up call at the end of the workday:

“At four o’clock every day, we would do a quick call, which was a wrap-up for the day. And then we gave them that last hour to just basically wrap things up. And then we ensured that people were offline after that. … That they could go and just get away from their work environment and then come back tomorrow and be as effective as they can. And we saw productivity increase during these times by doing that.”

Nicholas Sinclair

By ensuring that their employees didn’t overwork, TOA Global promoted their employees’ well-being, which also increased productivity. Many companies fail to realize the effectiveness of well-rested employees. Countless businesses have their employees work numerous hours, but this is detrimental to their quality of work. Rather than focusing on the number of hours that your remote employees work, focus on your team’s quality output: 

“Don’t focus on the activity — focus on the outcomes that your team members are getting. … If you’re focusing on the timesheets, as opposed to the jobs out, you’re going to be driving the wrong behaviors. … [You’re] driving … your team members into … a negative state, which is not going to be effective.”

Nicholas Sinclair

Promote quality work in your organization rather than long hours. When you focus on the quality productivity of your employees rather than the number of hours that they work, your staff will be more effective and produce better results. 

Male colleague calling in via laptop making a heart symbol with hands

Maintaining cultural rituals with your remote team 

Establishing a positive work culture is critical for your firm’s success. Many businesses are struggling with sustaining their work cultures while working remotely  because employees are no longer in the same physical location: 

“The key thing with this is ‘How do you maintain your rituals and your culture while you’re not sitting next to each other?”

Nicholas Sinclair

Nicholas’ company regularly celebrated birthdays and work anniversaries to promote a positive work environment, but his company has had to adapt to remote work. One way that they continued strengthening their work culture was by celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries remotely. They sent cakes through the mail and celebrated special occasions via Zoom

Establishing and maintaining a positive work environment and cultural rituals are crucial for your employees’ morale and overall productivity. Many companies struggle with creating a positive work environment without even realizing it. Often, leaders will assume that they have a positive work culture, but they don’t consult with their employees. 

Nicholas told a story in which one of his managers claimed that he had built an incredibly strong work environment at his branch. TOA Global had already surveyed the branch’s employees about their work culture, and the employees ranked their work culture as incredibly negative. You need to survey and make sure that your team views your work culture positively: 

“What data do you have to actually show that your team members are saying the same things as you? … I highly recommend that you actually survey your team members and ask them, ‘What are the five biggest things that you’re struggling with? What are two things that we could do to help you better during these times? How are you feeling overall about the culture of our business?’ … If you don’t ask the questions, then your perception may not be the reality.”

Nicholas Sinclair

There may be a severe incongruity between how you feel about your work environment and how your employees feel. You can anonymously survey your employees to see how they view your firm’s work culture, and you can begin strengthening your culture based on their answers. 

Establishing and maintaining a positive work culture is crucial for your employees’ welfare and your firm’s productivity, so make sure that you sustain your business’ cultural rituals while working remotely. 

Learn more about managing expectations for your remote staff 

Nicholas’ advice on managing expectations and maintaining your work culture for your remote team is crucial for your remote employees’ well-being–and your firm’s overall expansion and success. 

If you want to learn more about working with remote employees, make sure to read Part One and Part Three of this webinar series. Part One is all about communicating effectively with your remote team, and Part Three covers the best hiring practices for finding exceptional remote employees. You can also check out the full webinar here

Do you need additional help supporting your remote team? Consider joining Gusto’s partner program! With Gusto’s partner program, you’ll receive free Gusto payroll, HR tools, and a dedicated partner advisor that can help you prepare for your firm’s growth. You’ll also gain access to our partner directory, VIP support, and even more tools that will help your clients and your firm. 

Gusto Editors
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