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Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Employees

Give remote employees the tools and support they need to succeed

Why Working Remotely?

Today's work environment isn't what it used to be. Neckties are being loosened (or tossed out altogether). Many employers now offer flexible hours to accommodate a better work-life balance. And with the high cost of office space and lengthy commutes, more and more companies are allowing employees and teams to work remotely.

There are a number of benefits to employing a remote workforce, such as increased productivity, higher employee satisfaction, better retention and savings to your bottom line. It also allows you to cast a broader net to secure qualified, competent and trustworthy employees. However, a company must know how to effectively manage remote employees for this system to benefit them and their team.

 

Remote management – what works best for your business?

There are several different types of remote workers. Determine which one suits your needs:

  • Remote salaried employee. You have the most control over this type of remote worker and how they perform their job, due to their legal status as a salaried employee – even if they work off-site. 

  • Work-from-home hourly employee. Also classified as an employee, but paid hourly, this remote worker can be managed closely even from a distance and may be required to clock in and out from their location. 

  • Remote contractor or freelancer. This employee requires less remote management and is typically managed in a more hands-off manner. Their role is to make good on specific deliverables, and you don't have to monitor their hours or how they get their job done.

  • Remote team. Sometimes the employees you manage may not be strictly your own. If you have remote staff that is technically employed by a third party, but under your direction or management, communication is more important than ever to avoid crossed lines.  

 

Managing remote employees presents unique challenges

Many employers find it daunting to move to a remote management system. Traditional employee management techniques lend themselves to strict control over when, how, and where employees complete their tasks. Some managers may find managing remote staff across different time zones difficult without constant day-to-day interaction. There are ways to alleviate this:

Keep in touch 

Managers must answer to their own bosses, which means they must also be able to track progress and communicate freely with remote team members under their charge. Have a biweekly or weekly remote meeting to set clear expectations, check on goals and deliverables, and stay apprised of the status of outstanding tasks. Conducting these regular team meetings will also keep your remote team from feeling disengaged.

Don't micromanage

Workers need different levels of project management and supervision to thrive when working remotely. The level of structure required depends on their tasks, experience level and ability to self-manage. A good manager must be in tune with the needs of each employee and will know how to handle remote employees without micromanaging. 

 

Recognizing remote working strategy styles is key

Leading remote teams successfully hinges on communication. Supervising remote employees effectively and reducing employee attrition involves understanding and implementing different remote working strategy styles to fit various types of remote staff.

How to manage teleworkers

Teleworkers typically operate within a system that tracks hours worked, time spent on each call, closed tasks and other duties. Managing remote employees like these can be achieved effectively with weekly calls to share valuable information, check schedules, report on goals reached or missed, and to discuss strategy. Micromanaging these employees will likely lead to burnout.


How to manage field staff

Field workers may also work within a system that allows task assignments and progress tracking; however, remote staff in the field may require more supervision than teleworkers need. Long-distance management can be facilitated through open lines of communication in both directions. This openness provides added support and allows for changes in planning due to the fluidity of fieldwork. 


Understanding how to build rapport with team members

Building a cohesive team when your employees are remote can be a challenge. You need to know how to motivate remote employees and keep them engaged with the team and with the company. Give them reasons to want to excel and make them feel like part of the team by including them whenever possible. 

Learn how to motivate remote employees

If you recognize promotions of on-site employees with a cake and a card, consider having a gift delivered to your remote worker's location and call to congratulate them. Maybe your on-site team gets perks like a cafeteria card, access to cappuccinos on demand or downtime. Make sure your remote person receives an equivalent perk. Consider a monthly incentive of a half-day PTO or a subscription to a coffee-of-the-month club. Knowing they're appreciated at the same level as on-site employees give your virtual teams a refreshing boost.

Identify tips for managing remote employees

Offer support to your work-at-home or telecommuting employees by providing them with information on how to stay connected when working remotely:

  • Employee group chat rooms (a virtual "water cooler")

  • An online notice board to keep remote employees connected

  • A regularly scheduled informal drop-in call 

  • Newsletters with valuable information and tips for remote workers

  • Access to collaboration tools and video conferencing to improve productivity and communication, on a company account

For those working remotely, tips and tools like these make their job easier, help them be more productive and engage them regularly with the company. 

 

Communicate – but not too much

Communication is key – but how much is enough and how much is too much? When you're supervising remote employees, less can be more. The more time they spend responding to a constant barrage of questions and requests, the less time they have to spend doing their job. 

In-house employees are accustomed to constant communication from management, but managing remote workers may require some adjustment. A video call once a day, twice a week, or even monthly may be sufficient, depending on the individual. This rapport also makes them feel more comfortable reaching out if additional assistance or clarification is needed.

 

How to collaborate effectively if your team is remote

Finally, you need to know how to work with remote teams to ensure all members of the team are on the same page. When various team members are working on different aspects of a project, the need for swift, accessible remote team communication makes all the difference. Consider a weekly, real-time online conference call, plus an all-access conference line or instant messaging platform so team members can brainstorm, strategize or troubleshoot a problem if needed.

Managing virtual employees is something you may want to consider for your business. Remote management allows you the opportunity to broaden your scope of talent outside your company's vicinity. Adding a remote team to the mix also provides many benefits to a company such as higher employee productivity and retention, cost savings and a better work-life balance. By learning how to effectively manage remote employees and give them the tools and support they need to succeed, you and your company will reap the benefits, both near and far.

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