5 Tips for Managing Remote Employees
In today’s workplace, it is increasingly common for individuals or entire teams to work remotely. This has benefits for both you as an employer as well as your employees. Both sides benefit from increased flexibility, while the business reduces overhead costs associated with maintaining office space. However, there can be challenges when it comes to effectively managing remote employees or teams. The tips below offer the 5 best practices for managing remote employees:
Tip #1: Hire Remote Employees With Skills
When hiring, focus on the skills necessary to become a successful remote employee.
If working remotely is a core component of a role you are hiring for, make sure you explore the skills needed to be a successful remote employee with your candidates. These may include a strong sense of self-motivation, the ability to communicate well, and excellent organizational skills. You may also want to explore with candidates their previous experience of working remotely, whether on a full-time or occasional basis. Asking situational interview questions can help you figure out how your prospective employee would handle a challenging remote working situation.
For example, if communication is key to the role you’re hiring for, you might ask: “Tell me about a time when you experienced a communication challenge while working remotely. How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?” This prompts a candidate to provide a real-life example of the remote working skills they’ve developed, rather than what they think you want to hear.
Tip #2: Build Rapport With Frequent Communication
Establish regular touchpoints to build rapport with remote employees.
When managing remote employees, regular communication needs to be intentional. You can’t rely on bumping into your employee as they make their way to the copy machine, and you can’t expect your team to build the natural rapport that comes from sharing an office space for forty hours a week. Make sure you come up with a system that helps you and your team to build an equivalent sense of shared purpose. This might take many forms, for example:
- A daily or weekly check-in email.
- Using Slack (or another similar messaging system) to create real-time spaces for remote employees to connect and collaborate.
- Regular 1:1 sessions with your employees to check in on their progress and goals – ideally via phone or video conferencing.
- Using newsletters or a company blog to keep remote employees up-to-date with what’s going on elsewhere in your business.
Whatever system(s) you decide to use when managing remote employees, model the behaviors you want your remote team to use and encourage active participation.
Tip #3: Create a Balanced Schedule
Set clear expectations about working hours for remote employees.
It is also important that you set clear expectations around how “present” you expect your remote employees to be. For many remote employees, one of the key benefits of remote employment is the greater flexibility they have in their work day to fit their work around other obligations.
Depending on the nature of your business, how much flexibility you are able to offer may vary. If you have remote employees who are “on-call” for customer support, you may have very minimal flexibility and need workers who are able to work a more traditional shift. If you have employees working on longer-term deliverables (which don’t require in the moment responses) you may be able to be more flexible around when the work happens (so long as deadlines are met). One popular middle-ground between these positions is using “core hours” — an agreed upon period (for example 10-4) when remote employees commit to being available for business calls and emails. This allows for shared working time for the team as a whole, while still making space for some flexibility.
Whichever option works best for your business, make sure these expectations are clearly communicated to your remote employees and be prepared to address any issues promptly.
Tip #4: Effectively Track Remote Work
Decide how you’re going to track your remote employees contributions.
How will you track your remote employees work? One of the most important aspects of managing remote employees is accurately tracking the work that has been completed. This will partly depend on the type of role your remote employees are in. For example: if you have hired remote employees on an hourly basis, you may want to use time-tracking software so that you can make sure remote employees are logging the hours they need to (and keep an eye on whether their output matches the hours logged). If you’ve hired remote employees on a salary-basis, it may make more sense to measure against deliverables or outcomes.
Tip #5: Use Tools for Efficiency & Productivity
Set up the digital infrastructure needed for remote team collaboration.
It’s important that remote employees and teams have the tools they need to work effectively. This means setting up the digital infrastructure that allows remote employees and teams to share documents, coordinate schedules, and review progress. This may include tools in the following categories:
- Shared documents: e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, SharePoint
- Shared calendars or scheduling tools: e.g. Google Calendar, Outlook
- Project management tools: e.g. Asana, Trello
There are new solutions for remote working arriving on the market all the time – and it’s worth spending the time to find the tools that work for you and your business.
While it may seem daunting when you first take on new remote employees, careful planning and forward-thinking can help you and your business make the most of the new possibilities offered by remote working. With these tips, you’ll successfully manage a high-performing remote team.
Share Your Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees
What’s your experience with managing remote employees? What is your top tip for success?