How To Effectively Manage Remote Employees

August 20, 2018
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In the past, working from home was a privilege reserved for business owners and managers. Recently, however, many more people are choosing to work from home, with many companies even encouraging it.

Businesses are increasingly beginning to hire people who live in different locations to where they’re based and allowing them to work remotely. This allows such organisations to access a larger talent pool which isn’t limited and dictated by commuting distance. Remote working is also growing in popularity with new mothers who want to continue working whilst also spending time with their child.

If you’re responsible for managing employees who work from home, or who live in an entirely different location, it’s important that you do so effectively. This article explains the best methods for managing remote workers and outlines some challenges of remote working.

Mother working from home whilst watching her child

Challenges of Remote Working

Whilst remote working comes with many benefits, it also has some challenges, particularly for the employee who works remotely. They may feel:

  • Isolated and lonely.
  • Disconnected from your workforce and work culture.
  • Forgotten in terms of career opportunities and progression.
  • Lacking in motivation and easily distracted.
  • Left out of certain projects and social activities.
  • As though they can’t communicate with the workforce as easily as they would if they were in the office.
  • Stuck and unable to easily ask you a question.
  • As though they can’t ‘turn off’ from work if their resources are there, leading to a poor work/home life balance.

There are also challenges that you could face, including:

  • A lack of communication between you and the employee.
  • Poor reliability. It can be difficult to trust employees to do their work and work all their allocated hours, particularly if you’ve never seen them work in the office before.
  • It’s difficult to coordinate projects between team members when they are all in different locations.
  • Loss of employee productivity. For example, they may be distracted or interrupted when working.
  • Security issues. For the employee who works remotely, and your business, a lost laptop could be catastrophic, especially if your business handles sensitive data.

Tips for Managing Remote Workers

Despite the challenges that can come from remote working, it does have many benefits. For example, if you allow employees to work remotely to fit around their schedules, they’re likely to be grateful and more motivated to work hard.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to combat the challenges of remote work and to ensure that your employees work as productively as possible. We offer some tips below to help you do so.

Home office

Communicate Regularly

You should communicate clearly and regularly. When you hire new recruits, you should ensure they have strong communication skills to reduce miscommunication as much as possible. It’s easy to miscommunicate when you’re not communicating face-to-face.

When new workers start, you should stress the importance of frequent communication and state that they must communicate with you often. Similarly you should communicate regularly with them: if you, as a manager, don’t create clear and open communication channels, then the remote worker will quickly begin to feel lonely and forgotten about.

Strategically use different communication methods to achieve this goal, and use each one for a specific purpose:

  • Email: use for short exchanges of information and sending files.
  • Internal Messaging Systems (such as Slack): use for informal talk, group discussions, and general company announcements. Encourage remote employees to use this to chat socially to colleagues.
  • Skype/A Video Phone Application/Phone: use these for long and detailed conversations, such as discussing a piece of work or making plans.

Manager and remote worker talking over Skype

Set Clear Expectations

Remote work is much less structured than working on a company site. To rectify this, you need to provide remote workers with clear expectations of what you want them to achieve and how they should go about doing so.

Each person in your team should know:

  • What tasks they need to accomplish in the next week.
  • Their general goals, ideally for the next three months.
  • Any projects they’re in charge of.
  • Who to contact when they have any issues or they need help.
  • The hours they’re expected to work each week.
  • Your availability and when they can reach you.
  • The best ways to contact you.
  • How often you would like them to contact you.

Create a Company Culture

It is possible to achieve a good company culture, even when your employees are scattered in different locations. Your culture is determined by your values, how you operate, and your business style.

All employees want to feel valued and recognised, have clear lines of communication with the rest of the company, and feel part of an inclusive community. When these are achieved, it’s said that the company has a positive workplace culture.

Feeling part of a positive culture, and aligned with your values, is a way to get loyalty from your remote employees. Some tips for creating this golden culture are:

  • Give positive reinforcement. Let people know when they’ve done well and thank them for all their hard work.
  • Celebrate achievements. Whether you’ve had a record month with sales, or you pass a work milestone, try to celebrate your achievements. This will show employees your gratitude.
  • Be supportive. Always let employees know that you support them and they can come to you with any issues they’re having.

Arrange Team Building Activities

It’s likely that remote employees will feel lonely and not part of the team. As a result, you should encourage team building activities.

If all your workers live in a similar city or location, arrange a central point where you can all meet, and activities you can all get involved in, such as bowling or a quiz. If your workforce are a bit further apart, consider some online team building activities. These help to boost team morale and a sense of belonging. 

Remote workers meeting up

Provide your Employees with the Right Tools

You can’t expect people to be productive if you don’t supply them with the appropriate tools.

Provide an online document and file sharing location, for example an intranet or collaborative folders on Google Drive. Not only will this help to share pieces of work, but people can collectively work on ideas and documents. Furthermore, it will help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Treat Remote Workers with Respect

Whilst this goes without saying, there are occasions where remote workers are not treated with the same level of respect as those who work on site. If you have remote workers who consistently work hard and provide you with high quality work, don’t take them for granted. Offer positive feedback and try to accommodate their needs as much as possible, just as they accommodate yours.

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