Managing Remote Workers

It’s no secret that increasingly employees are working outside the office. Whether full-time, part-time, or on an ad-hoc basis, this option can be beneficial to both employees and companies. However, overseeing remote workers often requires an extra level of effort and attention from supervisors, so here are some tips on how to best collaborate with your remote workers.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Communication is the most crucial factor in managing remote workers. If there is not a regular cadence of communication, as well as many different channels for communication, your employees may feel out of the loop. In addition to establishing regular check-ins, ensure that there are also impromptu interactions.  While there might not be a physical water cooler, those discussions serve an important organizational purpose and can spur the sparks of innovation.  As a manager, it’s your job to help create that, even if in a virtual manner.  Encourage the use of instant messaging, online collaboration tools, and apps.  And, use video as often as possible for meetings and longer discussions, as this can help all parties feel more connected.

Track productivity.  Rather than focusing on how many hours your remote employees work, focus on results — goals and deliverables.  For each project, employees should understand the purpose and the desired outcome(s).  Be very clear on your expectations for each week including what the employee is expected to accomplish, levels of availability, who to go to for issues, and deadlines.  While important for all employees, this is especially imperative for remote employees who may not be as connected to the daily operations of the business. Set formal objectives and regularly review progress toward the achievement of them. In addition to helping motivate your employees, this will also help employees understand how their work connects to overarching company goals.

Make them feel like a part of the team.  It’s easy for a remote employee to feel isolated from the rest of the office.  As they say, “out of sight, out of mind.”  In addition to the use of technology, managers must go the extra mile to ensure that remote employees feel committed to the company. Bring your remote employees to the office at least once or twice a year (quarterly is even better). This can coincide with company meetings, events, retreats, etc., and also make the effort to coordinate social events.

Encourage your remote employees to act as a brand ambassadors at industry and local conferences.  In addition to elevating your company profile, this will help the employees understand that their contributions are impactful to the company.

Be generous with praise.  In the office, it’s easy to call across the cubicles to laud an employee for an awesome job. That public validation is more difficult with remote employees, and they can sometimes feel that their work is unnoticed, so regularly send communications to staff praising team members (remote and local) for a job well done. This also lets other employees know that remote workers are “pulling their weight.”

Trust > Micromanagement.  It’s simple: no one likes to be micromanaged. Just because you can’t physically see your remote employees every day does not mean that you should be harder on them or expect them to report their every move. You hired them because you trusted that they would be able to get the job done, even from afar.  While you should regularly check in, a successful remote work arrangement hinges on trust, so work on building the relationship to help establish trust.

It’s more relevant than ever before to develop effective techniques for supervising your remote employees.  As the world of work continues to evolve, this trend will likely increase, so get prepared by utilizing these strategies today.

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