Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like everyone’s new normal, however, statistics show that prior to the pandemic, remote work had already grown by 140% since 2005.
Working remotely can be difficult for some, especially those who are used to working in an office environment. The at-home set-up can be even more difficult for managers and business owners who have to continuously find ways to keep their remote employees’ productivity up.
We’ve compiled the following 11 tips for managing remote employees:
1. Set Clear Expectations
When the entire company came into the office every day, it was easier to manage everyone during the standard hours of the work day. When employees are all working remotely, this becomes much more difficult. It is essential in remote workforce management to set clear instructions and guidelines. Managers must be extra communicative and clear about the expectations set in place for employees so everyone is aligned and has an adequate understanding of their tasks and deadlines.
One way of setting clear expectations is to create guidelines for the following:
- Effective communication between employees. Make clear guidelines for the amount of time a person should hear back after a co-worker sends an email or message.
- Working hours. Give employees a quota of hours they need to fulfill each week and hold weekly check-in calls or Zoom meetings to ensure that everyone is getting their tasks and projects completed on time.
- Alternative communication channels. When you can’t reach your employees on your company’s main line, do you have other ways to reach them? Be sure that your employees provide an alternative method to contact them if you can’t get them on their main company line during work hours.
- Define goals. Be super communicative with all team members as to what their duties and responsibilities are. Set expectations for employees and give them the tools to meet them.
2. Be Flexible
The COVID 19 pandemic is certainly an unprecedented time. While it’s still important to make sure that tasks are finished on time, managers should be flexible to certain challenges employees may be facing while working from home. For instance, if an employee is a parent who is currently monitoring their children’s virtual learning, he or she may not be able to meet productivity expectations during the standard 9-6 pm working hours. Be understanding of the restrictions employees have and allow them to create a schedule that fits their productivity windows.
Here are other ways to show flexibility to your employees:
- Try to give as much notice as possible for task and project deadlines, whenever possible.
- Provide office resources to staff who are unable to purchase needed supplies or equipment themselves.
- Hold regular check-in calls or virtual meetings to gauge everyone’s progress and address issues or difficulties any employees may be having.
3. Communicate Effectively (and Regularly)
Communication is essential when it comes to managing remote employees. Working remotely does make communication more challenging, but certainly not impossible. Companies need to choose the communication tools that work best for their staff to achieve regular and effective communication with team members and leaders.
Engaging in regular communication with remote workers creates a foundation of trust and support. The continued interaction keeps employees on the same page and aligned on roles and responsibilities. It also prevents feelings of isolation and loneliness, two common feelings remote workers endure.
There are a lot of communication platforms that you and your employees can use. Emails, chats, and online video platforms are just some of the best ways to maintain a constant line of communication with remote staff. It is important to note different communication channels may work differently with each of your staff, so it’s best to know what mode of communication they prefer. This way, correspondence can become more manageable.
4. Hold Regular Check-ins
Managers and team leaders should strive to conduct regular check-ins with employees – be it monthly, weekly or even daily. This will help compensate for the fact that you aren’t able to see each of them regularly, and creates an opportunity for you to gauge everyone’s productivity. What does everyone’s workload look like, and is everyone able to complete tasks on time? Regular check-ins also allow employees to express work-related challenges they’re currently facing so managers can become aware and find ways to address them as soon as possible.
You can do regular check-ins by:
- Conducting one-on-one video conferencing
- Automated check-ins (productivity apps like Basecamp offers this feature)
One-on-one calls can also be useful in getting to know your employees better, and them, you. With familiarity, your employees will feel more comfortable and less hesitant to ask you for help whenever needed.
5. Focus on Outcomes Instead of Deadlines
Another way to build trust among remote employees is to inspire them. Focusing on outcomes will make the work fruitful. Of course, managers need to oversee staff to make sure they are getting their work done on time, but think about how you are doing this. Are you applying lots of pressure on employees? Or are you engaging and empowering them to set goals and achieve them? Leaders who adopt an outcome-based approach will ensure that resources and talent are not wasted.
Some of the ways to improve task outcomes are to:
- Find ways to make the work task more enjoyable.
- Acknowledge and learn from mistakes.
- Overcome difficulties.
- Encouraging critical thinking in your employees when brainstorming.
Managing remote employees means aiming for them to succeed. Proactive support will keep their spirits alive and encourage them to do better. A healthy mindset will help the employees render excellent service and contribute to the company’s bottom line.
6. Offer Learning Opportunities
Learning will always be a part of any human growth. It’s especially crucial during this pandemic when some of your remote employees may feel stuck in their careers. With so many available online learning resources, there are plenty of opportunities for people to continue their education while working from home.
Look into continued learning activities like:
- Digital lectures and classes via Zoom.
- Facilitating a cross-departmental mentorship online.
- Educational Podcasts.
- Paying for online courses.
If a team member has a specific field of interest they want to pursue, by all means, allow them to do it. Educational activities are a great way to show employees they are valued. Knowing that the company is willing to invest in their growth is a great morale booster and helps to make staff feel empowered.
7. Remember to Listen
Listening to your employees is one of the best ways to have them take an active role in your business. When they’re engaged in work, they’re more likely to produce better output, reach goals faster, and contribute to the company’s success. When you don’t listen to your employees, they will feel undervalued and could very well lose interest in their jobs or their work initiative.
To better manage remote employees, the remote manager should be aware of employees’ concerns by listening effectively. Be present when your employees have something to say. This will make them feel that their opinions and input are valued. In turn, it will also boost their confidence and push them to do better.
8. Create Fun Virtual Team Activities
Work can be stressful at times, especially if you’re cooped up in your home office for long hours with little to no human interaction. As a remote manager, you should consider initiating fun virtual activities to allow team members to bond outside of work tasks, and elevate the mood during stressful times.
Some of the things you can do include:
- Hosting a virtual talent show and having one of your employees show their hidden talent.
- Virtual lunch or coffee breaks together for socialization.
- Setting up virtual competitions through mobile games.
- Paying for virtual classes outside the purview of work, like cooking, yoga, or meditation.
Creating fun activities doesn’t need to be expensive. Sometimes even the simplest activity makes a world of difference. Allotting time for fun activities will help alleviate some of the stresses from work – even if it’s just briefly.
9. Conduct a Survey Regularly
Another successful way of managing remote employees is by conducting a survey. Asking the team what they feel and think every now and then is essential to improving their output and encouraging more productivity. You can do this by having them fill out a survey form. This could be informal if the team is small. If you manage a larger group, different applications can be used to obtain information.
A carefully designed and conducted employee survey can reveal helpful information about remote employee observations that you can use to handle and improve remote work processes.
There are a lot of ways in which you can conduct a survey. One useful platform is Google form. When creating questions, be sure to ask the following:
- Are you adjusting well to the new remote work arrangement?
- How satisfied are you with the company’s remote work regulations?
- Does the company provide you with the right resources and tools to make the task easier?
- Is your manager always available to answer your questions?
- Do you feel motivated to work every day?
- Do you feel supported by management?
- What are some of the biggest hurdles that you’re facing while working remotely?
- Are there some areas you think the management should improve in?
Have your employees answer the question in a 1-5 manner; one being the lowest and five, the highest. The last two items are open-ended questions and should provide the management with enough insight into the challenges that remote workers are facing. With this information, managers can strategically plan and improve their ways of managing their remote teams.
10. Fix Problems Together
The responsibility for solving work problems shouldn’t be placed on the shoulders of one person alone. Both managers and employees should work together to come up with solutions to fix workplace problems. When bigger problems do arise, gather the team by conducting a virtual meeting to brainstorm solutions.
Suppose the problem is between two remote workers, set-up a call for them, and have them talk it over. As a manager, you can act as the mediator. Sometimes, proper communication can be of great help when solving issues and misunderstandings.
When fixing problems, keep these useful insights in mind:
- Unite with each other
- Try to have an open mind
- Understand each other’s feelings
- Listen and be open to each other’s ideas
- Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts
11. Celebrate Success and Acknowledge Hard Work
An excellent remote manager celebrates success, even if it is just a small win. Celebrating success will make the remote employees feel accomplished. They know that their hard work has led to something crucial to the success of a company.
Additionally, acknowledging an employee for a job well done will instantly boost their morale and inspire them to do even better in the future. Eventually, they will find the meaning behind their work, and there’s nothing more motivating than knowing that there’s something waiting at the end of each successful task.
To further boost your employees’ morale, consider rewarding them with:
- Salary bonuses
- Care packages
- Paid vacations
Managing Remote Employees: Final Thoughts
Managing remote employees doesn’t have to be overly complicated. With the right mindset, techniques, and tools, managers can easily oversee their team’s progress. By balancing professionalism, empathy, and fun, leaders can effectively supervise staff members and ensure that remote working isn’t too challenging for them.
Success is measured by the outcome of the work and the contentment and happiness of the remote employees, and the business owner’s ability to manage the remote workers efficiently. If you’re one of the many business owners who manage remote workers because of the pandemic, the tips above can surely be useful.