When it comes to managing remote employees, the key is to build structure.
In an office setting, structure tends to occur more naturally. Communication is direct and simple, and you can see what your team members are up to at any given time. Need to have an impromptu meeting? No problem.
But with a team of remote employees, things can get convoluted.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to create structure in your management style to motivate and support remote employees. Once structure is created, all you need to do is maintain the routines that work.
Even if your employees are salaried, it’s important to have some idea of their hours spent working. Establish some method of keeping track of remote employees’ work time.
Whether they are self-reporting with simple time sheets or logging hours digitally, you’ll have some point of reference to know if changes are needed. Tracking time also ensures that your team isn’t burning the candle at both ends, which can lead to mistakes and reduced productivity.
If time-tracking seems arbitrary, another option that provides even more insight is productivity tracking.
This can be done manually or with an employee productivity app that reveals more detail about what employees are accomplishing. There are several cloud-based apps that assist with employee management.
Tracking productivity is critical for a myriad of obvious reasons—your bottom line, getting an idea of how long certain tasks take, and planning timelines for projects. This will get you in the practice of monitoring productivity over time and encouraging employees to make improvements.
Provide a trajectory
It’s nice to know what’s coming ahead of time—and why.
Check in with your employees every morning, every Monday, or at the very least, every month with a general timeline of what’s coming up. This check-in can include project updates, general info the whole team should know, and helpful resources your team can use.
Providing this general trajectory is the foundation of leadership and helps employees understand the big picture of what they’re working toward. It will also diminish any resistance or confusion when you explain the “why” or purpose behind something.
During times of organizational change, a trajectory is particularly crucial for your remote team.
Schedule face time
If possible, scheduling face time with remote employees can break up the week. It also creates natural checkpoints for getting things done. Even if regular facetime isn’t possible, it’s helpful to invite employees to company events that occur less frequently.
Events and get-togethers help to assimilate remote employees into your company culture. Facetime can build employee confidence and create much-needed camaraderie between team members.
To start, determine how often it is reasonable for remote team members to meet up in person.
Communicate clear work expectations
Clear communication takes on a whole new meaning when managing remote workers. All the well-documented communication issues between staff and management can exist. Plus, they may be amplified by the physical distance.
One of the main things that causes the all-too-common rift between employees and management is assumptions.
Both sides assume that a project will be completed a certain way, only to find that those expectations don’t match up. When aiming for clear communication with employees, remember one thing: details matter.
Communicate clear cultural expectations
Contrary to popular belief, remote work can actually benefit your company culture, allowing employees the solitude to focus when needed. Furthermore, you can prevent problems from arising by being open about your culture and company values right from the start.
In addition, digital communication tools can help remote employees get used to your company’s communication style and expectations.
Sure, providing specific feedback keeps remote workers on their toes. But more importantly, it plants the seed of knowledge that their work matters.
Without feedback, remote workers may make a number of assumptions, such as their work has no impact, you are not paying attention, company management is lacking, or their work is perfect and there is no need to try to improve.
All of these assumptions can contribute to misunderstandings and a general lack of enthusiasm. This means that your remote workers will have no framework from which to improve. Providing meaningful feedback gives remote workers valuable information—and something to strive toward.
Encourage them to take initiative
A remote worker with no creative license or power in a company is a recipe for disengagement and boredom. It’s also a situation that leads companies to struggle with innovation and team collaboration.
Simply put, when employees know they can’t do much, they won’t do much—and that’s not what you’re paying them for.
Gone are the days when managers forbid employees from working offsite due to mistrust. With more professionals adopting flexible work arrangements than ever before, companies are realizing remote workers can get just as much done.
In fact, several studies have already shown that remote workers are far more productive than their in-office counterparts: “A ConnectSolutions study found that 77 percent of remote workers get more done in fewer hours thanks to fewer distractions like meetings, conversations, and noisy coworkers.”
With a bit of prep work, you can ensure your remote team flourishes.