How To Effectively Manage Remote Employees

March 27, 2020
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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 offering it as part of an attractive ‘flexible working’ initiative.

Currently, the UK, along with many other countries in the world, is facing a ‘lockdown’ due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This is an unprecedented situation that has uprooted economies, with businesses having to close while we attempt to control the spread of the virus. Fortunately, there are businesses that have managed to get their teams set up remotely, however, some may be more used to this way of working than others.

Managing employees remotely can be a challenge at the best of times, let alone when the situation is beyond your control. This article acknowledges those challenges, outlines some tips for checking in on your remote workers and suggests ways of keeping your team in positive spirits.

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.

Home office

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.

In the current climate, many of these feelings will be exacerbated due to the tight social restrictions placed on society due to the virus.

Tips for Managing Remote Workers

Despite the challenges that can come from remote working, it does have many benefits. For example, allowing employees to work remotely to fit around their schedules is thought to increase motivation and, in some cases, productivity. 

In this unusual instance, it is likely that anxieties and stress will be heightened for a while during the adjustment period. We want to help you reassure your employees and give you tips to ensure that your employees work as productively as possible.

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Communicate Regularly

Communicating is an essential part of the working day, especially if remote working is new to your team. You should make an effort to communicate clearly and regularly. It’s easy to miscommunicate and misinterpret when things are written down and body language cannot be read.

Team camaraderie and our friendships at work often get us through tough times. We recommend scheduling in regular team catch ups via a video conference calling service to see how your team is getting on. Encourage your team to catch up virtually as they would do in the office, even if it’s just for a chit chat, as it is likely this situation will be going on for a number of weeks. This will keep morale high and maintain a sense of community, even though it isn’t physical.

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.

Circulating time management tools, such as this handy matrix, could also help your employees organise their new routine.

Maintain Your Company Culture

It is possible to keep your company culture alive during this time. In fact, it matters more than ever. 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. At the moment, these might be smaller achievements, however, it is still important to recognise your team for pulling together. 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.

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.

Acknowledge & Validate their Feelings

Universally, this is a tough time. People react to change differently so it is important that you check in with your team members individually.

Working from home can feel lonely and boring which can easily lead to a decline in mood. We have written a guide, full of actionable tips from High Speed Training staff, to help you maintain positive mental health while working remotely during these uncertain times. You could circulate this with your team members and try some of the tips together.

A group of our High Speed Training team working from home

Some of the team conducting virtual meetings, saying hello and trying to keep positive!

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