People & Leadership

The secret to managing remote employees

Man with papers in hand working from home

Do you manage remote employees? Allowing a team to telecommute, work from home, or work from an independent workspace is an attractive perk for many professionals who value their freedom and flexibility.

“Many more employers are open to the idea, where previously it was limited to employees in the field or senior managers. Employers are realizing the benefits, while technology makes it possible for more of us to work remotely as effective as or even better than if we were in the office or other fixed places of work,” says David D’Souza, an experienced HR/OD Change Leader.

Companies see that they can decrease operating costs because they require less space and they can increase the quality of their talent because of the larger labor pool that isn’t restricted by geographic location.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims there is an upwards trend in remote working. An average of 24% of U.S. workers do some or all of their main job remotely and 68% say they expect to work remotely. These numbers vary depending on the profession; management, business, and financial operations occupations are above average at 37.8%.

If you don’t manage remote workers yet, or work remotely yourself, that could change in the near future.

Is remote employment a win-win for workers and a business? It can be. The real challenge as a manager is to establish routines, ensure employees meet their goals, and, the most important piece, feel part of a team and the company’s vision. It’s common practice for companies to put policies in place for remote workers; not a list of rules, but rather, a set of principles. Providing a bit of structure and clear expectations will help maintain a high level of achievement and reduce headaches for all involved.

Tips to manage remote employees

Set goals and manage performance. Whether an employee is in or out of the office, ensure they have clear goals and understand the vision of the organization. They should have a list of projects, responsibilities, and measures. Be sure to work with them to define goals at the beginning of the year and agree on milestones of what you expect them to achieve. Remote and in-office employees should be evaluated the same way.

Define expectations. Set hours during the workday when you expect staff to be responsive by phone, email, and chat service. As a general rule, ensure the team is also clear when it is appropriate to use each form of communication. If you think it would be helpful for the team to hear your tone of voice so there isn’t a miscommunication – don’t hesitate to pick up the phone.

Encourage team communication. Create open conversation with employees and set the precedent that they have to stay in regular contact with one another. Just as you would with a team in the office, schedule regular 1:1s and team meetings to encourage this interaction. Weekly meetings are the norm, but do what works best for your schedule. Hold these over video conference if you can.

Invest in technology. What are the critical aspects of your business that should be available to all employees real-time? Many of these are cloud-based such as file and project management systems. As we’ve mentioned previously, ensure all of your data is readily available to employees. This enables your employees to accelerate their sales and make informed decisions.

Arrange face-to-face meetings. It can be extremely valuable to do full-team in-person meetings at least once or twice a year. These relationships go very far. It is much easier to pick up the phone, brainstorm, or just speak with someone you’ve met face-to-face vs. a stranger. (Especially when you’d like feedback or need to work through a difficult issue.) If possible, set up more frequent in-person meetings with your direct reports.

Build rapport to build trust. Trust increases employee engagement and may be the most important piece of a successful organization. Spend a few minutes during weekly calls to learn what matters to your employees. This will humanize your interactions and make them understand their value to you and the team.

Develop and optimize processes. Monitor employee performance, learn from issues that arise, and very importantly, take team feedback. Adapt your documentation, rules, and processes accordingly. Stay up-to-date on new technologies so the team has the tools to perform.

Example tools to implement

Salesforce Chatter – Chatter is a great tool for enterprises that allow employees to collaborate on multiple campaigns, projects, and tasks. It has more of a message board format than an instant messaging functionality.

Skype for Business – Skype offers instant messaging, screen sharing, video conferencing, and Office integration. With the click of a button, you can be connected to people around the world. Integrates with Microsoft Outlook for easy scheduling, too.

Cisco WebEx – WebEx is a great standard option for video meetings, screen sharing, and audio conferencing. Get a personal meeting room with your own URL for easy sign in for all parties, near and far.

Slack – Slack is a messaging app that simplifies communication. This is a great alternative to email for small teams (3-15 people). Share documents, images, and gifs with your Manage remote employees. The mobile app works well, which is great for teams across the globe.

Remote working can be tricky to manage, but it is here to stay and has many benefits. It’s important to ensure your employees stay productive and engaged to keep performance up.

Do you have any tips to manage remote employees? Let us know in the comments.