5 Tips for Managing Remote Employees

We live in the early days of the New Workplace. This New Workplace involves far less structure than the traditional workplace where you were expected to spend 8 hours every day, doing your tasks and spending a few minutes by the water cooler. The New Workplace involves a number of things and, among others, it involves working remotely.

Employees love working remotely and it has been shown that remote workers are no less efficient and successful than those who come into the office. Moreover, since they will be working from home, this can be another way to save some money as a small business owner.

That being said, managing remote workers can be a challenge, especially for managers who do not have experience in this kind of work. The following tips should help you out if you find yourself in such a situation.

1. Show Trust

Despite what you might think, the majority of people are not pathologically lazy and the vast majority of employees want to put in a good day’s work because they know this is the right thing to do. This is true for people who work in the office and it is true for remote workers as well. They might take a few days to get used to remote work themselves, but once this settling-in period is over, they will be just as productive as they would be at the office.

This is why you should start every relationship with a remote worker from a place of trust. Do not start treating them like children just because they are not in the office. Do not send them an email every 15 minutes asking what they are doing. If they do not respond to your Slack message in a matter of seconds, do not immediately assume they went fishing.

If you approach every remote worker under the presumption they are doing nothing and just looking for a way to bunk off work, you already lost.

2. Instill Structure

While you will trust your remote employees as much as possible, you will also need to establish a certain structure to the work you expect them to work. Among other things, you should assign clearly defined tasks with the time frame in which you expect them to be done. You should also ask for regular updates (not too often) on how various tasks are being accomplished and whether there are problems with getting them done.

One thing to consider would definitely be the use of project management software of some kind. If you are not familiar with such solutions, you should probably compare various project management tools and find the one that sounds the best for what you need.

3. Encourage Communication

Communication is the most obvious obstacle for a great remote relationship, but the good news is that we live in a time when you can video chat with someone on your phone. And the craziest thing is that we take this for granted.

In short, there is really no need to turn communication into a problem and all you need to do is convey to your remote employees that their questions and suggestions are never unwelcome. Tell them to call you up whenever they need help, tell them to send emails whenever they feel it is warranted.

In addition to communication with you, your remote employees should also feel free to communicate with other people in the company. This will give them a sense of belonging to a culture, despite the fact they are not physically present. Another great way to add to this is to organize their visits to the offices (if the geography allows it) and to invite them to company outings.

Communication channels should be open at all times.

4. Immerse them in Culture

All companies develop a certain culture that makes them different from other companies in the same industry. A culture can be guided by the management, but it mostly happens accidentally. For remote workers, it often feels like they are not part of this culture and that they do not contribute.

Since culture is a big part of employee engagement, you need to make sure this is not the case in your company.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to make them as involved as possible. For instance, have them spend a day in constant audio communication with one of the employees who work from the office. They can chat away the whole day, talking about business, but also sharing personal stuff and talking about what is going on in the office.

Once again, if you can arrange for it, have them visit the offices every now and then, at least for a few hours to get to talk to everyone in person and to get a better feel for the company.

If your company runs a blog, invite them to contribute to it, to present themselves and to give their insights into what the company means for them and how they get their job done.

5. Enable Promotion

Just because someone works remotely, this does not mean they should be denied the opportunity to advance in your company. This may require a change in their status as remote employee, but they will probably be up for it.

This is something that often gets overlooked when remote employees are in question. They mostly become these reliable contributors who are sort of away and who are never really evaluated appropriately.

This can be a fantastically big mistake. Do not overlook your remote employees. You may have the next manager among them. You might need them to come in more often once you start considering them for a promotion, but if you tell them what this is all about, they will most likely be glad to come over.

Final Thoughts

Managing remote employees comes with its own set of challenges. However, if you are smart, open-minded, trusting and inclusive, you should have no problems.

In fact, you might discover that your remote employees are some of the best and most productive people you have in your company.

 

featured image credit: unsplash.com

 

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James D. Burbank has spent more than 15 years in marketing, working with small businesses in some of world's most exotic markets. He is currently spending time between Europe and Australia, blogging about business.

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