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11 Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Employees

In recent years, remote work has become common for many workplaces. With their work-life balance, productivity and overall bottom-line advantages, remote and hybrid workplaces are emerging as a dominant business trend, with 32.6 million Americans projected to work remotely by 2025. This rapid and consistent shift to a remote work model likewise demands that you and your business’s human resources team be ready to pivot and address issues and opportunities related to managing remote employees.

Whether you’re working with remote employees for the first time or experienced with everything from virtual meetings to digital nomadism, check out the tips below on managing remote employees.

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Understanding the challenges of remote workplaces

As an employer, you should recognize that remote workplaces don’t necessarily carry new challenges. Instead, managing remote employees often means that common in-person workplace issues and principles are reiterated and sometimes exacerbated as their remote work counterparts.

In other words, managing remote employees often comes with challenges you may already be familiar with, such as:

  • Limited face-to-face opportunity: In remote settings, leadership and employees don’t have the same chances to express concerns and connect over tasks. This can translate to digital micromanaging and reduced access to leadership support and other resources.
  • Social isolation: Employees may feel disconnected from your business without social interactions in a physical workplace.
  • Information accessibility: Whether getting task-related information or communicating project needs, remote work sometimes disjointed communication and information access.
  • Home distractions: Remote employees may need to contend with distractions such as limited home office space or parenting responsibilities

11 tips to effectively manage remote employees

1. Set clear expectations

One of the most important parts of an effective remote work management strategy is setting clear expectations for everyone involved. Communicate any expectations relevant to each employee’s role, such as how often and when to check in, virtual work hours and project updates.

When it comes to regular check-ins, creating a structured plan often works best. Whether you intend to check in daily or weekly, a structured schedule means that check-ins are consistent and predictable. During these check-ins,  you and your employees can discuss any concerns or questions about remote work expectations.

2. Have a communication strategy

Communication is a common workplace issue often exacerbated in a remote setting where organic interactions are less frequent. Beyond check-in plans, it’s important that your employees understand that over-communication is better than under-communication, as it helps ensure everyone is focused on the appropriate responsibilities, tasks and goals.

To support regular communication, provide policies and information around different communication methods. For instance, define when a group video call versus an email or Slack message is appropriate depending on the nature and urgency of the situation. Provide details about timing and responsiveness, such as how soon you expect a response to emails during work hours.

3. Encourage socialization

In addition to regular meetings and communication, it’s also essential that employees be able to socialize holistically and independently. By setting up casual forums such as an ongoing video conference for virtual co-working, pet cams where people can drop in with their pets or Slack channels dedicated to discussing the team’s favorite television series, you can facilitate connection and relationship-building within your teams.

In turn, these connections can help relieve the social isolation of remote work and even lead to unplanned conversations that yield great ideas for your business.

4. Balance team meetings

Whether your workforce is partially or fully remote, setting up regular group meetings is essential. Virtual events and team-building activities can foster a sense of unity and help employees get to know each other. Team meetings also give remote workers a chance to contribute ideas and voice concerns about projects, allowing them to move forward with projects and tasks with well-defined expectations.

When scheduling meetings, be mindful of Zoom fatigue, otherwise known as the burnout associated with too many virtual meetings. To avoid burnout, boredom and inefficiency, consider alternating communication methods and making some meetings optional.

5. Foster trust, rapport and transparency

Transparency is essential for employers to build trusting and effective relationships with their employees. This is especially important when managing remote workers, as it can be difficult to build trust and rapport when team members are not physically present and are often subject to loneliness or disconnection.

When it comes to building trust between you, your company’s leadership and all your employees, listening is the most effective strategy. Create opportunities for employees to provide feedback or consult with you about questions or concerns. In turn, you can use their feedback to make strategy adjustments and show that their input is valuable to the organization.

6. Focus on onboarding

Providing new employees with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at a company is an important part of onboarding. Turnover due to poor onboarding is expensive, but successful onboarding processes can increase retention, employee satisfaction and productivity. To promote long-term success, allow new remote employees to concentrate on onboarding during those crucial first few weeks rather than on actual work assignments.

7. Use tools to manage remote employees

Many available tools are designed to help manage remote employees. These tools can facilitate communication and collaboration, keep projects and tasks organized, share files and more. To manage and empower your teams, consider the following tools:

  • Google Drive
  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • GitLab
  • Tettra
  • Slab
  • Asana
  • monday.com
  • Twist
  • Trello

8. Show flexibility

Your business’s team is made up of individuals with unique lives and needs. Some may be parents who are working from a private home office or simply a spare quiet room. Others may enjoy taking their work with them when they travel and tune into Zoom meetings from their hostel lounge or a coffee shop. Regardless, it’s important to show understanding and flexibility so that your employees can manage their personal lives in conjunction with their professional lives.

9. Be inclusive

In face-to-face workplace environments, company culture evolves organically as employees interact with each other. With remote or hybrid teams, it’s easy to neglect your business’s company culture—let alone build an inclusive one.

To foster inclusion, diversity and equity in a remote workplace, make sure to take and consider all relevant employee feedback. In addition to building representative remote teams and creating a formalized diversity and inclusion policy, you can also set up a remote diversity and inclusion committee that helps address the cultural and safety needs of your business. 

10. Focus on outcome, not input

Part of the appeal of remote work for employees is autonomy. When you’re not sitting next to your employees, however, it’s easy to underestimate their productivity or efforts. This can quickly develop into micromanaging behavior where you or your business’s leaders overwhelm remote workers with communication and requests for progress reports.

Micromanaging remote employees can be stressful for both parties and make employees feel as though you don’t trust them to stay on-task. Instead of micromanaging their responsibilities, focus on outcomes and goals rather than visible activity and hours worked. As long as the employee is completing their work well and on time, their work style may be irrelevant.

At the same time, it’s important that remote employees aren’t taking advantage of their autonomy by wasting time and ignoring their workload. Some employees may not have the self-discipline for remote work, and it’s critical you recognize this behavior quickly before it affects team productivity.

Read more: How to Prevent Micromanaging in the Workplace

11. Create an open-door policy

Remote employees may not want to disturb you by contacting you outside of meeting times. This is especially true if you work in different time zones. To prevent this, create an open-door policy. Tell remote and non-remote employees that they can contact you at any time and that, while you may not be able to answer immediately, there’s no such thing as too much communication.

FAQs about managing remote employees

How can I monitor remote employees?

While it’s important to avoid micromanaging, you’ll still need to know what they’re up to during work hours. Monitor your remote employees by setting deadlines, scheduling check-ins or using time-tracking tools.

Are remote workers less productive?

According to a survey, remote employees work 1.4 more days every month, and many self-report that they feel more productive when working from home. However, productivity depends on many factors such as the type of work, home setup, number of distractions, personality type, work preferences and more. If you’re worried about employee productivity, provide education on how to reduce home distractions.

How can I motivate remote employees?

Keeping remote employees motivated can have a direct impact on their happiness and productivity and can boost retention rates.

To bring out the best in your remote employees, offer training opportunities on how to work from home effectively, provide clear goals and a path for career development, give positive feedback and recognition, and keep the lines of communication open.

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