Managing remote employees is becoming increasingly important in the digital age but how do you do it the right way?
Blueface predicts that by 2025, remote working will compete with office locations.
Rapid developments in technology and a more integrated, globalized society has impacted work culture, leading to the rise of virtual workspaces. This is a far cry from a couple of decades ago where working in an “office” was seen as the norm or even a prerequisite for a secure, settled job.
Remote work is growing in popularity, and why wouldn’t it? Remote work benefits both the worker and the employers.
Contrary to the previously held notion of remote working being associated with slack and low productivity, hiring a remote workforce has many genuine benefits - from giving employees the flexibility to carve out their own schedule to saving hours wasted commuting.
The productivity increase among remote workers is equivalent to an extra day per person per week. - 66% of Flexjob survey respondents said their productivity improved when not in an office, and 76% said there are fewer distractions outside of offices.
Whether you’re outsourcing work across time zones or having some employees work from home (or both), here are some best practices for managing remote employees.
Make a Plan
Set clear expectations on objectives, timelines and communication protocol so that you are in sync with your team on priorities and business goals. A useful tool we recommend is project-management platform Wrike which allows you to create and delegate tasks, set deadlines, track progress and collaborate with colleagues.
Wrike is ideal if you are dealing with multiple projects and competing deadlines as it helps prioritize which tasks to focus on and minimize miscommunication as all team members can view project updates in real time. This helps your team stay on top of various projects even if they work in different time zones.
Equip Them With the Right Tools
Share resources and give your remote workforce access to systems and software that can help them collaborate with their colleagues in real time even if they are thousands of miles away. These can include a shared calendar like Google Calendar, access to the office hard drive, and phone or video cloud software like RingCentral that allow you to share multiple screens and record calls, which can be useful for training purposes.
Encourage open communication and have regular check-ins with your remote employees to stay connected and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. Working remotely can often alienate team members who feel cut-off from the rest of the team. Use cloud-based communication platforms to have quick catch-ups and one-on-ones to address this lack of human contact and reassurance.
Ringcentral is a great example of a cloud-based communication and collaboration solution for any small business or enterprise. Ringcentral can be used for phone, video, conferencing and team messaging.
For a more personal touch or lighter form of communication between team members or workspaces, Slack is a cloud-based instant messaging platform perfect for a quick chat or letting someone know where you’re at with your work for the day.
Speak to Their Goals
Help them along their career paths by providing clear direction at the outset, along with clarity around how their work is in line with larger business objectives. Remote employees are no different from those who work in an office and want to feel valued and recognized for their achievements, so take the time to motivate and congratulate them when milestones are accomplished or when goals are achieved.
Keep them engaged by offering opportunities for growth and support them while dealing with new challenges.
Personalize the experience
Working remotely is a different experience for each individual, some thrive in a home environment while others can feel isolated and lack inspiration. Some people love being in control of their hours and others need to be micromanaged or told exactly what to do, and when to do it. Some people may need a clear separation between office and work space whereas another person may feel absolutely fine working in their pj’s from their bed.
When a manager accepts or understands better the remote workers method and reasoning, it helps nurture the individual and coach them adequately in order to better their work practice and maximise potential on behalf of the company and its goals.
Treating each worker in a more humane way will help them feel cared for as a person, respected and that they are an important asset for the company. This is fundamental in the theory about a happy worker being a harder worker. A happy employee is extremely important for the survival and performance of any organisation.
Set a Reasonable Schedule
Be sensitive to everybody’s schedule especially if you’re dealing with employees in different timezones. Set video conferences and online meetings so that no team member misses out. Sharing your calendar with colleagues (and theirs, with you) can allow everybody to see the other’s schedule, allowing you to organize meetings at a time when you know everybody can make it.
Build Trust and Familiarity
Win the trust of your employees by taking some time to build rapport and getting to know them on a personal level. Spend a few minutes talking about non-work related topics such as weekend plans, their kids or current affairs to make up for the lack of interaction in person.
Build trust through personalisation of the experience. Understanding your employees needs and keeping promises when it comes to time frames and meetings.
Remote employees can often feel disconnected from the team at office - so sparking an impromptu interaction or conversation might to do wonders for morale and increase a sense of belonging.
Building a line of sight through video calling or conferencing, during the on-boarding process is important, to help develop trust and knowing who to turn to for help and advice to aid development and productivity.
The Human Element
Nothing can replace human connectivity and face-to-face communication, so whenever possible have face-to-face conversations via Skype or the preferred video networking platform. To promote bonding and team building, it’s important to meet with your remote employees physically a few times a year if possible.
Monitor Their Work (and give feedback)
Keep track of employee progress and productivity with tools such as Hubstaff which allow you to track your employees’ online activity levels holding them accountable for their hours spent. There is the added benefit of getting to identify which projects take time, and which areas your remote teams are performing well in.
Since tracking productivity is an important part of overseeing remote teams, this will help you easily gain a bird eye’s view of your employee’s performance - allowing you to feed back to them on progress and performance.
How to Manage Remote Employees?
Encourage Open Communication and Set Clear Expectations
At first, it may seem daunting to manage a team of geographically dispersed employees (across towns, countries or even continents). The reality is that it’s not dramatically different from managing an in-house team as long as clear lines of communication are established from the start. Other factors to keep in mind are setting expectations in terms of goals, priorities and timelines and to be proactive and regular with catch-ups and feedback.