Managing remote employees is far more difficult than managing office staff. Distance creates barriers and masks problems that would otherwise be recognized through casual interactions. Often, managers feel remote workers lack a sense of urgency and focus. Remote workers, on the other hand, feel torn between home and work responsibilities as they try to satisfy demanding managers while supporting their families.
Despite the challenges, remote work offers employees the opportunity to pursue projects in their field without having to move cross-country. Likewise, companies gain access to a much larger labour pool than would be available in their local market, often at less cost than traditional work arrangements. Given the rapid changes in technology, remote work will continue to be a major component of the labour market.
Here’s our 7 tips to effectively manage your remote workforce.
Communicate your expectations in writing
Setting clear expectations at the beginning of a remote work arrangement is far easier than developing guidelines on the fly. Written guidelines provide both employees and managers with a game plan. While job responsibilities inevitably change over time, having a written plan makes it far easier to gauge the success of the arrangement.
- Start every day with a 5 minute chat session
Touching base at the beginning of the day is a great way to set the stage for productive work. Rather than an interruption, an early morning call gives both managers and workers an idea of how a project is progressing. It also provides an opportunity for remote workers to let their managers know if they need help resolving a problem before the workday begins.
- Address problems immediately
Remote workers do not have the luxury of bouncing ideas off their co-workers in casual conversations. Simple problems can fester, allowing projects to veer off course. Rather than hope for the best, be proactive and address concerns immediately. Consider discussing serious issues face-to-face rather than by email or chat as these venues can often seem impersonal.
- Set a working schedule
Setting boundaries for both workers and managers is vital. While managers should be able to contact remote employees during normal business hours, late night calls can destroy any possibility of a positive work-life balance for remote workers. It can also set expectations for flexible scheduling that make it difficult to coordinate work between remote employees and office staff.
- Create and share key performance indicators
Key performance indicators that track employee productivity and quality are vital in a remote work environment. They give both parties the opportunity to objectively evaluate performance on a regular basis without the subjectivity of short term job assessments or annual reviews.
- Use milestones to keep track of progress on larger projects
Using milestones on larger projects helps remote workers budget their time and gauge their progress. In collaborative environments where resources are spread across vast geographies, milestones allow other team members to coordinate their efforts and anticipate problems.
Use collaborative tools
Using collaborative tools like SharePoint, Basecamp, or Wiggio can help team members coordinate their activities while allowing them to share ideas and concerns. Far from distracting, these tools create a sense of common purpose and connectedness which is hard to achieve in a remote work environment.
While effectively managing a remote workforce requires adaptation to new tools and technology, remote management is still based on traditional strategies and techniques. From team building to skills training and feedback, remote workers require the same support as traditional office staff. Technology can help bridge communication gaps and lessen the sense of isolation, but it’s no substitute for effective leadership.