“Work from home where possible” “don’t go into work unless you can’t work from home” strangely familiar phrases these days, but remote work was already a growing trend. For some workers it’s absolutely possible, a choice, a fundamental lifestyle change, for others it’s a necessity they don’t welcome. There’s been lots of advice about how to cope with this unusually rapid forced change for workers, but for team managers, it can be a totally different story.
It is just the pandemic that has fueled this remote work rise, for many reasons companies have been hiring remote workers for years. Businesses can expand teams, and take on experts from overseas, or certainly a broader physical area. There are huge benefits to be had, but it is also a great responsibility for the managers. Just how do you manage, monitor and yield results with remote workers, how do you keep the relationship, instill company values, keep the communication channels open, deal with issues….there are many questions.
When it comes to managing remote employees efficiently, you need to understand what the important factors that lead to great performances and outcomes are. In this post, we’ve prepared 7 top tips that will help you understand the process of managing remote employees, cultivate the right mindset, and use the right approach to do it successfully. Ready to get the best out of your distant workers?
1. Recruit experienced workers
As a rule, employing staff who are inexperienced and on the upward learning curve is advantageous. You can grow them and develop them in your own ways, providing resources, mentors, and training to gain an excellent, exciting, vibrant member of your team. Whilst it’s not easy and takes time there is potentially a mutually beneficial relationship.
Whilst not impossible this is far harder with remote workers. Keep your interns and apprentices, your future leaders close at hand, in-house. You have direct input on a daily basis, a guiding hand, they learn from those around them not just the tasks of the job but the accompanying roles and responsibilities. Your perfect remote worker is someone, who has been through that, and done it, an expert in their field, experienced, and with a proven record.
2. Establish communication practices
The key element of any employer-employee relationship is good communication. Unlike in-house workers, it’s difficult to speak face-to-face at any time during the working day. You can’t just walk into their office or work station, so you need to establish communication practices that work for both sides.
Online communication applications are numerous and make life much, much easier. Use them, but within them set out your communication rules and guidelines and stick to them. Choose a communication channel carefully, familiarise yourself with the features, some such as recording, transcription, scheduling can be incredibly useful. Set times for meetings, stick to a schedule, make the meetings feel as much as possible like a real physical meeting – make it like a work meeting, not a quick chat on-the-go. This helps keep a professional relationship as well as formalizing the business that has to be done, or the progress that is being made.
3. Test their reliability
You want workers who can be trusted, who are reliable, who can work independently, and to high standards -of course, you do. It is given in all businesses, but with remote workers, it is even more important. By definition, you do not have the same hands-on approach when your team member is not in the same building. You need to establish that they can do the work given, meet deadlines, communicate issues and problems, meet the required standards, and follow the established protocols.
Get testimonials and recommendations before employing and check them out thoroughly. Test their reliability and ability on small tasks, don’t rely on them until their quality and reliability allow you to relax a little. Build the employer/employee relationship slowly, it’s beneficial to both sides.
4. Respect your remote employees’ autonomy
Employees who have chosen to work remotely usually value autonomy and wish for it to be respected. After being given a task, they prefer the freedom to work with it on their own and in their own way. This unleashes their potential, boosts confidence, and can be largely productive.
Managing such employees often means you need to take a more hands-off approach than usual whilst still being strict with results. It can be difficult, especially at first, to give your employee the reins but it can result in high quality, high performance, and a happy worker.
It must also be mentioned though that especially these days some people haven’t chosen to work remotely but are victims of circumstances. In such cases management becomes a very different challenge, some will require a great deal of support and instruction and can feel all at sea, others will relish the challenge. Your skills as a manager will now come to the fore, use individual strategies for getting the best out of a varied team.
Remember this is a very unusual and challenging time for many, so some will rely on more instruction and help than ever before. See it as an opportunity to build strong foundations for the future.
5. Keep the work challenging
An essential quality of a remote worker is self-motivation, without a manager breathing down your neck, are you likely to relax and slow down? perhaps. A successful remote worker should already have the self-discipline, self-organization, and motivation to be relied upon. However, this is not an area to take for granted, if you can come up with stimulating and interesting tasks it helps.
Challenging, varied, and interesting work is a bigger motivation than money. It can help produce better results short-term and importantly staff retention long-term.
6. Focus on the results
If your remote team is experienced and professional, used to autonomy and expert in their field, then the most important checks you can make are not how things are done but what are the results. A results-orientated approach, with clear expectations and timelines, allows the remote worker freedom whilst keeping them focused.
7. Keep them involved
One of the biggest issues with managing remote workers, and often for remote workers himself is feeling part of the company. If you are managing remote workers, ideally you want to make them feel part of your business. Keep them up to date with what’s going on in-house, what’s happening with other workers, it boosts their engagement and they feel like a cog in a big machine rather than a freelancer. There are collaboration tools that are handy here too.
Another important aspect is to encourage distance workers to bond or at least get to know colleagues. You can use virtually team-building, include them in non-business related chats, have hang out meetings- use your imagination.
Distant workers are a valuable asset for a company as long as you know how to maximize the positives out of this partnership. Applying these 7 pieces of advice will make managing remote employees an easier and more effective process. There is a multitude of great tools available for collaboration, project management, collaborative design, and communication so embrace the technology.
Whilst this article is based around managing remote workers who have chosen this form of working, it must be noted that many of these tips also apply to your staff that has been forced into becoming remote workers at least temporarily. In fact, even more so. This is where your management skills are really being put to the test, so enjoy that challenge.