Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that around 43% of workers in the United States work remotely most of the time. And knowing that a manager’s key role is elevating engagement levels, which are directly tied to productivity levels, is a gigantic task when you have employees you rarely see or even know.
“A Stanford University study found that productivity increase among remote workers is equivalent to an extra day per person per week. And remote workers are, on average, less likely to burn out and in many ways more engageable than in-house workers.”
It’s clear to managers that remote workers are too valuable to ignore.
Whether your company has three, 30 or 300 remote workers, it’s important you know how to manage a remote team. When you have a strong grasp on how to effectively manage remote employees, then you establish a strong company culture, attract top talents, and retain the very best from your in-house team to your remote workers.
Managing Staff Remotely: The Complete Guide (eBook)
In this free eBook, we highlight everything you need to effectively manage your remote employees. From communication tips to engagement ideas and more, this guide is filled with all the information needed to make remote work a success.
Before you dive into the best practices of how to effectively manage remote employees, you first need to understand what challenges you’re up against.
What are the challenges of managing remote employees?
You face a whole set of new challenges when you have remote employees and most of the challenges may not be what you’re used to when everyone is in the same office building. It’s important you understand that how you usually handle things in the office won’t always translate well with your remote team.
These are the most common challenges you’ll be faced with:
- limited communication, which often leads to misunderstandings, with management and co-workers
- lack of cohesion with the team
- setting schedules, there is no 9-to-5
- no clear tasks or roles
- respecting every employee’s time
- technical limitations such as no access to company computer or email
- difficult to track remote employees’ performance
- low engagement levels
- a lack of company culture
When you go into managing remote employees with a clearer idea of what challenges you may come up against, you’ll have the arsenal at the ready with our guide to get the job done effectively so these common challenges don’t become an unbearable burden.
Best practices for effectively managing remote employees
1. Use the right tools
Are all your employees using the right tools to communicate and collaborate effectively? There are tons of chat and collaboration tools available in the market so you can manage a productive and robust remote team.
Trusted by thousands of companies, spanning multiple industries, across the globe, Connecteam has everything you need in one place. Team chat, private dialogue, instant updates and channels, an in-app directory, feedback surveys, a virtual suggestion box, live polls, sharing of materials (video, pictures, files, etc.), and so much more.
“If you, the manager, don’t create good, open communication channels, the remote worker will feel, well, ‘remote’ and forgotten,” said Keith Ferrazzi, the founder, and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight.
Seamlessly communicate with your remote team
With Connecteam, you have multiple ways to communicate and engage with your remote employees. From group chat or private chat to feedback surveys to live polls to sharing files to a suggestion box and so much more. Take communication to the next level with Connecteam’s communication tool.
2. Create a communication strategy
- Have a number of weekly formal “check-ins”
- Set monthly, quarterly, and yearly performance goals
- Be crystal clear on expectations and task requirements like parameters, deadlines, and metrics
- Establish which channels to use, like one-to-one chats, team meetings, or open forums for feedback and ideas
3. Video chat when possible
More than half of all communication is nonverbal, research shows, so when you aren’t seeing your employees in the office every day, having a visual clue into their behavior is key. Whether you want to measure their reaction to changing a task’s due date or discussing their performance or even just to gauge their overall mood, a video call will tell you so much more than an ordinary voice call or even just a chat conversation.
If you notice that something is wrong, ask your employee about it! Rely on non-verbal clues as an opportunity to solve problems or concerns before they turn into gigantic issues.
“Video technology brings us together and connects us, increasing the intimacy of our relationships with one another,” said Ferrazzi.
There are many affordable and even free tools available in the market today, like Zoom, Skype or Google Duo, that there is no excuse for not doing it.
4. Engage in team-building games
By engaging in team-building activities, you are building and fostering relationships which directly leads to better retention, higher productivity, and overall employee satisfaction and happiness.
Research shows that remote workers have much weaker relationships with their colleagues than employees who work in-house.
Managers must, therefore, engage in regular team socializing to build a human connection and build trust and inclusion with the entire team. As remote employees are more involved, they positively impact the company culture.
5. Build on your company culture
No matter the business type or size, it takes time and a few ingredients to create a positive company culture such as hiring the best people, fostering healthy and regular communication and conveying your culture company-wide. Based on what kind of company culture you want to inhabit, you need to be proactive in translating that to your remote team.
Have a plan that you religiously follow in place, otherwise, your remote workers won’t actually feel a connection to the company culture. For example, you boast about open communication but as a manager, you’re never available to talk shop and then some. What you need to do is to hold a virtual open-door policy to encourage your remote team to communicate with you at any time. When this mindset and action plan is woven into your company culture then managing remote employees is an easier task to take on.
6. Recognition is a must
Remote employees often feel invisible. For managers, it just appears easier to recognize employees that are in-house as you’re around them five days a week, however, that’s not the case at all. During meetings, via company-wide updates and announcements, or any time the opportunity presents itself, give your remote team a shout out. Brag about their accomplishments, mention they were involved in a successful sale, share birthday or anniversary wishes, and so on.
Not only will you improve productivity and boost engagement but you show your remote workers that you care and you recognize all their hard work. As the saying goes, “a little goes a long way.”
Mark Mortensen, an associate professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, said, “Being generous with public praise and acknowledgment of remote employees helps make sure their work is recognized and is a signal to coworkers that they’re pulling their weight.”
7. Be responsive
“The thing that makes the distance between coworkers feel like distance is the lag in communication. If I message somebody who lives hours away and they don’t respond for several hours, I’m going to wish we worked in the same room so we didn’t have to deal with that. But if each time I message them, they respond immediately, then it’s just the same as if we were both in the office together.” – says Kellan, Customer Experience at BambooHR
Make sure your calendar is up to date and mark dates on your calendar when you are not in the office (therefore, not available at all) or will be in the remote employee’s area.
Ask your remote employees to do the same. If there are days and times where they are not available, due to personal reasons like childcare or doctor appointments, you should be aware of this so you don’t bother them or get annoyed when you can’t reach them.
Additionally, if you host meetings that a remote worker can’t attend, record the meeting so they can catch up at a later time.
8. Build trust when managing remote employees
The best managers build trust through individualization, never breaking promises, asking for feedback, and engaging in frequent conversations – especially when there’s a video chat as it builds a line of sight and encourages trust.
“Knowing whom to turn to for help enhances productivity and aids development, but remote workers lack that perspective. Managers who make themselves a proxy in their remote worker’s network prove themselves both trustworthy to the worker and indispensable to the worker’s success.”
9. Focus on meeting goals and not activity
“It is important to manage expectations and stay focused on goals when embracing a remote workforce. Don’t worry as much about what is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting our goals, then great. If not, we need to look into the situation further. It is all about accomplishment, not activity.” – Donald Hatter, Donald Hatter Inc.
When you set and develop goals and are clear on your expectations, that’s what matters. Don’t solely focus on how much your remote worker got done in a single working day. Look at the bigger picture, are they meeting goals? Are they reaching out if they get stuck and need help? Are they available and take on more responsibility? What have they accomplished?
There is no need to micromanage every task and question your employee, after all, once you’ve built and established trust, the need to question your employee goes out the window.
“The world is shifting quickly to a workforce interested in learning and skills advancement rather than stability. Working for 30 years for the same company has gone the way of the dodo. I take a personal interest in my team’s learning and life goals, and in our meetings, will often take a moment to connect their interests to the goals of my company. Engagement and performance stay much higher.” – Tina Dietz, StartSomething Creative Business Solutions
The bottom line on managing remote employees
Working with remote employees isn’t something you should shy away from, especially as it’s becoming increasingly popular. Instead, focus on efficiently managing your remote team to turn them into your biggest asset.
Connecteam: one app to manage your remote employees & business
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