Top Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Employees
Working from home has its challenges and managing from home has its own unique set of challenges. Not being with your team makes it difficult to manage them and motivate them. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 50 percent of the workforce is telecommuting to work in some form or another and 90 percent of all employees say that they would like to work from home at least partially. Recently, those work-from-home numbers saw a big surge. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to send their employees home and telecommute to prevent the spread of the virus. For companies that already have remote working in place, this was not a huge adjustment. Smaller companies and industries that don’t normally operate remotely were left scrambling to set up their policies and hardware to keep the operation moving forward. Management for these companies is left trying to figure out how to keep their teams productive and motivated while working remotely, which is no small challenge. Here are the top tips to effectively manage remote employees.
Treat Remote as Local
Treat your remote team members like they are local and in the office with you. Conversely, treat the local employees like they are remote. The local people see you in the office every day, in the lunchroom, in the hallway, and at your desk. They can have one-on-one interactions. The remote team members need some more interactions to feel like they are part of the team. Not having that access makes them feel distant.
Make the Expectations Known
Just like with new hires, set the job expectations from the start. Everyone has a different definition of “fast” and “productive,” so make yours known up front. Don’t make assumptions that remote employees know what you mean. Things get lost in translation, misinterpreted, or ignored all the time. Make your expectations clear and known so that they can meet them and do good work.
Schedule Video Coaching
Sending emails and text messages and having phone calls are effective for communicating, but they will never replace face-to-face interaction. Being able to see who you are speaking with so that you can read their facial expressions is an invaluable tool. If you aren’t scheduling some face time to speak with team members, the silence will become deafening. The person may start to wonder how their performance is, feel unimportant, and begin to withdraw.
Stay in Touch Regularly
Reach out to your remote workers multiple times a day. This isn’t the same as micromanaging someone in the office. This is checking in on team members to see if they need anything, how they are doing, and if they have any obstacles you can help with. Use different channels to communicate and then set up face-to-face conferences regularly. The constant interaction will make them feel engaged and included as a member of the team.
Make It Feel Inclusive
More times than not, it’s easy to relegate remote staff to a secondary role. This can be overcome with regular virtual meetings and staff partnerships. Schedule meetings between team members that normally don’t have much interaction. Have them talk about current projects and what hurdles they overcome daily. This will bring the team closer and engage everyone on a different level, not just professionally.
Trust Your Team
Older companies with a set way of doing things are hesitant to allow working from home. Their concern is that work won’t get done as efficiently as it would if it were done in the office. There must be a level of trust given to remote workers. Know that they will get assigned tasks done on time and trust that they are skilled professionals who are responsible and knowledgeable. Set timelines for completion of work and let them get it done how they need too. You hired them for a reason.
Be Purposeful and Engaging
The ultimate goal is to create a remote workforce atmosphere of connection and engagement. Be intentional in preparing the team for the realities of the work-from-home lifestyle and the remote culture. Make each interaction with the team count with opportunities for everyone to engage and contribute in different ways. Building and fostering the team culture is the ultimate goal.
Provide the Necessary Tools
Make sure that the remote team has everything they need to do their job. Provide them with functional equipment so that there are no breakdowns or missed deadlines. If they can’t download files, can’t hear on a conference call, or aren’t able to join a video conference, you have failed the very basics of remote working. Quality tools like laptops and phones must be in place first before work can be done and deadlines met.
Stay Goal Focused
Managing expectations and staying focused on goals is important. Don’t focus on what is being done and how it’s being done. Focus instead on what is being accomplished. Meeting the established goals is what we want. If we’re not, then the situation needs closer examination. It’s not about activity; it’s about meeting goals.
Have a Communication Strategy
Developing a clear communication strategy will help you stay engaged with the team. Start by setting up a reasonable amount of weekly check-ins to touch base with each employee. Use that time to see what their needs are and how you can help them. Second, set up guidelines about the daily needs. Some people have constant questions and need constant interaction and guidance. Others don’t need much and work better on their own. Know your team and what they need, and set up the dailies with the individual.
A lot of the same rules apply at home, as in the office. Trying to do too much at once will only slow them down. Encourage people to stay off the email chain and responding to everyone. The massive chain emails and the endless back and forth eat hours out of the day one minute at a time. Keep the communications short and to the point, and only send them to the people who need to know.
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