managing remote employees


I've worked remotely and managed remote workers for over 15 years and it has it's upsides and downsides. Over the next few blogs we'll review tips for improving remote work environments.

One of the biggest concerns that leaders have regarding remote workers usually concerns productivity. Nobody likes being micro-managed and trying to check in often enough to satisfy your curiosity on how a team member is progressing becomes a futile waste of time. So what are the best ways to ensure your teams are making the best use of their time. Here are a few simple tips.

Offer multiple ways to communicate. Not everyone likes to communicate the same way and this is especially true for the younger staff in your organization. In addition to phone calls and emails there are numerous other ways to communicate. Don't underestimate the value that social media can bring to the table. It may feel like encouraging social media use during working time would be anything but productive, but trust me, they're likely looking at it anyway. Facebook, Instagram and Messenger all have direct messaging capabilities. If you don't already have accounts here, get them and let all your employees know your account names. Then tell them that they are welcome to get ahold of you in whatever way they are most comfortable. Don't be surprised if question comes your way in the form of a SnapChat.

In addition to social media messaging utilize a real-time messenger application. While asynchronous communication is reason that email, texting and social media use have skyrocketed there is a need to be more present but not necessarily requiring the need for a phone call. This is where Skype and FB Messenger come in. Standardize on one across the company and require that all staff be available during working hours in case anyone has a question. It's a bit like being tapped on the shoulder. "As soon as you have a minute…"

Have daily and weekly scheduled check-ins. Utilize video calls to make these face-to-face meetings. Zoom, Webex and Google Meet are great tools for this. Have preset schedules and set expectations for mandatory participation. For example, have mid level management utilize daily calls at a preset time to go over the days work and any issues. Have senior level management report on their efforts during a weekly video call.

Not everyone has dedicated work spaces and do not disturb zones in their homes when working remotely. As a result not all work will get done exactly between 8am and 5pm. Try to be flexible and focus on the results rather then when they occurred. Set clear expectations not just on the date and deliverable but also on the available budget. Budgets are still budgets and if it gets done in the allotted amount of time don't worry if some of happened from 10pm to 2am.

Make sure that technology is not a hindrance. All employees need proper tools and the tools for remote access and communication is at the top of the list.

My experience is that for most employees the problem is not working too little but working too much and being out of touch with the company culture. Stay tuned for my next post on this little conundrum.