Remote management can feel like a totally different challenge than managing people you work with side by side. Things that work in an office don’t always translate exactly to remote employees.
While there are many advantages in remote work, managing employees who telecommute present unique challenges — creating trust, open communication, and the connections necessary for collaborative work relationships require specific strategies and tools to be successful.
With that being said, it’s important that you manage remote employees effectively to ensure consistency and productivity. If you manage your workforce right, you can easily have a loyal, productive and satisfied team of workers to help you and the business succeed.
In this article, we listed 7 simple tips for managing remote workers and maximizing their productivity. Use these tips to be more conscious of the unique approaches you should take to managing them.
1. Set goals and define expectations
Clearly articulating a company’s vision is what sets a good company apart from a great company. In the case of a remote team, getting buy-in on a shared vision is even more important. The key here is to define success from the very beginning and ensure that it looks the same for the employee as it does for you.
However, it’s all too easy to forget to set expectations early on. So be clear and consistently revisit those expectations. Have goals, timelines, and hold people accountable for their deliverables. Whether that’s in terms of defining working hours or assigning project deliverables.
As a manager, it is also very important to ensure that your employees and you have the necessary clarity on their responsibilities toward your team. Use your regular meetings to discuss the work that needs to be done. Be deliberate and clear on expectations so employees know how, where, and when communication occurs.
Prior planning can help remote employees manage expectations and gauge issues they may come across. Setting clear expectations is a key part of that.
2. Use the essential management tools
Remote workers are often self-managed. Due to their self-efficiency, it’s important that you utilize tools to track the work done and stay informed while giving employees the space to manage their work on their own.
Having communication tools at your disposal is crucial; you can facilitate conversations among employees in a secure environment. It allows them to relay information faster as well as discuss work matters quicker. Whether they want to use the app, get on a call, live chat, email, or video conferencing, communication tools can surely support it!
Managing the daily tasks and well as larger tasks that span weeks can be tough without a work management tool. You and your remote employees need a platform to keep track of everything that is happening.
In the best of times, it allows you to manage your team’s workload across all your projects. You and your remote employees know at-a-glance that the right resources have the correct amount of work. It can keep your workflow organized, ensure tasks are completed on time, and the workload is appropriately distributed for optimal time management.
To help you pinpoint the essential tools for your workflow, here’s a list of 24 of our favorite software tools that will help you manage your team remotely.
3. Be present and reachable
Communication is the key to success. In fact, studies show that businesses can improve employee efficiency through effective communication. This is why being present and reachable is crucial.
Be sure you are always communicating clearly. Encourage them to ask you questions, ask them as well, and don’t assume. Your employees want to know that you are reachable and that you share a common goal.
Make yourself available to them and be mindful of their time zone. It is reasonable for an employee to expect to be able to reach their manager during their working hours. Make a genuine effort to reply to them in a timely manner and show them that you are invested in their work.
4. Create a true “team” feeling
When working virtually it may take extra effort to keep people feeling committed to the team. They need to know that they’re not just contributing true value to the team’s common goal, but they are also valuable to the team’s success in achieving its goal.
You can do this by being inclusive and keeping your team informed about how the company is doing. People like to know what’s happening in other parts of the company and how they themselves fit in and are contributing to the bigger picture.
Get everyone in your team involved in important events, projects, and updates. This could create a feeling that they are not just working separately but are truly part of your company and being part of a team is worthwhile. This kind of visibility can motivate them as they feel included and valued.
5. Coach and develop employees
Some things never change. Whether in a traditional office environment or managing remote employees, training and development must be a priority.
As a leader in the workplace you must take into consideration the professional growth of your staff. Setting development goals strengthens their skills, improves retention rates, and ultimately is a win-win for you and the employee. They are growing professionally and you are gaining a better employee.
So set up regular one-on-one meetings with each of your employees to talk about their performance, progress, and roadblocks. You can use these monthly meetings to help your employee solve their roadblocks and any problems they face. Use this time to talk about what tasks they intend to do in the upcoming months. Also, ask them about what barriers they may face.
6. Track performance, not presence.
It can be tempting to expect remote staff to work the same hours as their office-bound counterparts. And, while this does make sense in some instances (to attend meetings, for example), it may not always have to be the case. Especially when spanning time zones, you may need to give remote workers some flexibility.
As long as they’re getting the work done, projects are progressing at a satisfactory pace and nothing’s getting held up, does it matter if they start work at 4 a.m. and finish up by noon? Or pull a late-night session, if that’s when they’re most productive?
One of the best parts of remote work is that it allows your team to work when they’re at the top of their game for peak performance. Your company can take advantage of that, getting the best out of every employee, by giving them some flexibility and measuring performance, not presence.
7. Trust and build Trust
At some point, once you’ve defined responsibilities, expectations, and deadlines, you must trust your team to follow through. Certainly, as a manager of a remote workforce, you need to go the extra mile to provide the right tools and support at a distance. But a great deal of the formula for success with a talented workforce is simply to motivate and then get out of the way.
Many remote employees choose jobs that offer telecommuting because that flexibility is critical to their quality of life and they’ll follow through to make sure that opportunity pays off for everyone involved.
On the other hand, you must also build trust through individualization, keeping their promises and frequent conversations. Building lines of sight for them builds trust too. Knowing whom to turn to for help enhances their productivity and aids development.
Managing a remote team effectively is not about monitoring the amount of time your team members spend online, in fact, that’s a great way to kill employee autonomy and motivation. It’s about building and supporting a team that doesn’t need to be micromanaged in the first place.
All in all, investing in a workplace culture that’s supportive, conducive, and even encouraging to remote work will allow your company to grow—and your employees to work in a way that makes sense for both their careers and their lives.
With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in different parts of the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the public should prepare for a possible coronavirus pandemic in the US.
As the numbers of infections and deaths continue to rise, companies must implement flexible working arrangements to protect their workforce while running daily business operations. We are all encouraged to explore letting our employees work remotely and to limit in-person interactions, replacing them with video and telephone conferences.
However, there’s no doubt that managing remote workers can be a bit more challenging than those you see face-to-face every day. And shifting to a remote work environment can be difficult, especially for companies that are accustomed to the idea of presence being a job requirement.
Fortunately, there is a plethora of tools available to not only ease the transition but also help productivity soar in the process. Constant communication is key to keep remote employees engaged, informed and performing at their peak, which translates directly into a positive bottom line impact for the company.
Overhaul your approach with the tips above to ensure you’re aligned with your team to maximize their talent and catapult productivity to the next level.
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