6 tips for managing remote employees
When managing remote employees, whether they’re scattered across a major metro area or across the country, most managers quickly realize the old school, in-office approach to management just doesn’t fly.
Unfortunately, supervising a team of remote employees may not come naturally to some. It’s not about who’s at their desk when, it’s more about making sure team members consistently get their work done – and that work meets your quality standards.
So, how can you best manage your remote workers and get work that meets your expectations? Many remote teams find success with the right mix of flexibility and accountability.
Here are 6 tips to manage effectively from afar:
1. Define and maintain your standards of productivity
A common company-wide policy is to require emails to be answered on the same business day that they’re received. Another example is being available during set business hours for phone calls and meetings.
For job-specific productivity standards, it’s important to clearly spell out employee expectations. For instance, how many documents need to be processed per day? What’s the quota for sales outreach?
Be sure to document and analyze each employee’s performance trends and let them know how they are doing from time to time.
2. Equip team members with what they need
Managers of remote employees should make sure team members have access to the tools they need to complete their work efficiently. Consider these items as you determine what should be provided:
- Every employee, whether they’re working in-house or in another state, needs access to the same software and security protocols, documents and spreadsheets, reference tools and templates, and policies and guidelines.
- Consider each team member’s workload and the amount of interaction required for each role. When appropriate, provide access to a shared drive or a cloud storage tool, such as specific Dropbox folders (if that meets your company’s security standards).
- Determine if your company will provide a computer or if the remote worker will be required to use their own computer.
- You and/or your remote personnel may need to confirm that the capacity and reliability of phone and internet connections will be adequate.
- It’s also important to find out if team members intend to work from a co-working space, where they might have less privacy and security than working in a secluded home office.
- Be sure keep remote employees aware of security measures and procedures. Note that they may need periodic refreshers on things they don’t use on a daily basis.
- Consider that some team members may require a company credit card or an account with a nearby copy and print shop or shipping center. If this is the case, it’s best to spell out the spending limitations on those accounts.
3. Designate time for team communication
When employees work onsite, team interaction happens naturally. However, without the containment of a single office building, it’s nearly impossible to predict the communication habits of every person on your team. Make a point to designate some time specifically for team communication.
For example, you might schedule a daily team meeting via video conference each morning. Or, at a minimum, every team member should send out a weekly email containing a list of current projects and any blockers they might be facing.
Also, encouraging team members to keep their calendars up to date so that meetings can easily be scheduled.
It takes some careful cultivation to foster the connections and kinship that encourage remote team members to openly share ideas or simply commiserate about project challenges, but you’ll reap what you sow: building camaraderie stokes a team’s gel factor and sense of satisfaction.
4. Check in with remote employees often
Of course, each team and industry has its own unique challenges, so you have to customize your management style to fit your situation. It helps to assess how your team is functioning as a whole and how each team member’s experience influences their productivity.
Talk to individual team members frequently to zero-in on bottlenecks or blockers, and then do what you can as a manager to help remove those speedbumps that are slowing down your team’s momentum.
Be sure to demonstrate to remote workers that you value their contribution to the team and the company, whether that’s via a phone call, email or video chat. You may discover that certain team members need almost daily check-ins, while others work best with fewer check-ins.
5. Ask team members to share tips for success
Experienced team members, both in-office and remote employees, usually have a few tricks of the trade to share.
Ask team members to pool their proven practices together to share with the team. This can help new (and not-so-new) team members figure out the best ways to set up their workspace, software and devices.
If you have an in-house efficiency expert, have them advise team members on organization strategies and streamlining their processes.
6. Think through budgets carefully
Determining budgets with remote teams is not always clear-cut.
You can’t always count on a decrease in office space use to deliver a comparable reduction in overhead. In other words, allocating work to five remote employees won’t necessarily offset the cost of having five employees do the work in-house dollar for dollar.
You may need to adjust your travel budget if you need to have remote team members fly in for meetings at your headquarters on a quarterly basis. You may also need to outfit remote employees with new software or helpful hardware, such as headsets for conference calls.
Keep in mind: certain state laws may require you to reimburse remote workers for internet and other expenses incurred in order to perform work remotely.
With a proactive management approach, you can set your teams up for success. You may even find that remote employees can be equally productive, and perhaps even more so, that in-house employees.
Want to learn more? Join us for the webinar “Building Culture and Engagement in Virtual Teams” on Nov. 2. Register today to attend live or receive the recording.