What started out as a gig economy has quickly transformed into a thriving remote workforce that continues to grow. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, roughly three-quarters of U.S. employees are expected to be part of that mobile workforce by the year 2020. And while the Internet and cell phones serve as great tools for a lot of different purposes, surprisingly effective communication does not always make the top of the list. Lacking face-to-face interaction eliminates a lot of social cues people rely on to know they are understood — facial expressions, body language, and voice tones to name a few. So how can one effectively manage remote employees without that in-person communication? The following tips will help you lead a productive team no matter how far away you are.
Try These Ways for Effectively Managing Remote Employees
1. Use Proper Communication Methods
Not everything can be explained via email. A good rule of thumb is if something will take a few emails back and forth to explain, then picking up a phone or calling via Skype is your best bet. But vice versa, phone calls can be very distracting to a worker who is in the zone. Try to set up meetings versus cold calling. If you have a simple update, email or a chat might work better.
It is also helpful in the onboarding process to ask your employees what communication methods they prefer. This allows you to set clear expectations for your working relationship.
2. Develop a Team
While working from home comes with lots of benefits (pajama days, dog snuggles, staying in bed when it is cold outside), it can also be very lonely. Employees miss out on watercooler talk, and as a result, do not bond with their teammates. This can hurt creativity and collaboration. Create Slack or Basecamp chat threads that are non-work related to ask about each other’s weekends, share positive news, or talk about the newest Netflix show you are binge watching. This will lead to enhanced camaraderie, happier employees, and successful collaboration.
3. Offer Feedback
Your remote reports deserve to be nurtured and led just as much as the people you see daily. Out of sight, out of mind can be all too real. You receive a completed assignment, say thanks, and move on. But you still need to put effort into off-site employees in order to see growth, no matter how less convenient. Set aside the time to have a one-on-one and offer meaningful feedback to their work. In addition to improving the quality of deliverables, regular communication helps build relationships and can increase the employee’s investment in his or her job.
4. Set Goals
Along the same lines of offering feedback, you cannot expect someone to be fully engaged without setting clear expectations, goals, and a vision. A remote employee should have something to work toward, deadlines for projects, and formal reviews. Setting these goals will provide clarity in assignments and reduce frustration down the line. Plus, you have a way to measure performance when it comes time for reviews. Hold regular check-ins to discuss progress, answer any questions, and see how you can support your employee’s development.
5. Provide the Right Tools
Employees expect their offices to have everything they need to effectively execute their jobs, and remote working should be no different. Make sure your staff has access to any programs or technology they would have in office. In addition, certain programs make it easier to manage workers from afar. Skype and GoToMeeting allow for screen sharing, which proves helpful for presentations or tutorials. Programs like Basecamp and Slack provide a great place for chatting, daily check-ins, file sharing, and more.
When you are dealing with remote teams, details can get lost in the massive amounts of emails sent daily. A project management system will help store and organize all the important files so teams don’t miss a beat.
When done correctly, using remote workers can provide numerous benefits to companies, including increased employee satisfaction, enhanced productivity, and money savings. And it does not have to be all or nothing. You could allow employees a certain number of remote days in a week, month, or year. No matter what your work-from-home policy is, keeping employees happy and healthy is key, and these tips can assist with that.
Stephanie Figy is a business + marketing writer at an A/E firm by day, and a freelance writer by night. In her free time she enjoys traveling with her husband, drinking craft beer, and taking care of her cats and rabbits. You can find out more about her at stephaniefigy.com or @SKFigy.
What are your best tips for managing remote workers, or what suggestions do you have for the remote boss? Share your ideas in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.