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Managing Remote Employees: Tips for Virtual Management

Here are 16 tips and best practices for managing remote employees:

1. Maintain an open calendar

Remote employees may feel isolated from the team environment. It’s important to maintain an open calendar so the remote workers can arrange a time to discuss projects with you, as well as any concerns or questions they may have. Your availability will show employees, remote or otherwise, that you care about anything they’d like to discuss and want to be there for them.

2. Set clear expectations

Remote employees are operating within a different office environment, yet expectations for work output shouldn’t be any different. Set the clear expectation that although they are working elsewhere, they are still responsible for the same level of work. With a remote employee, you may want to set the expectation of daily status updates, so you have the same level of insight into their work as you do if they were in the office.

3. Provide the tools

Consider providing your remote employees with the same equipment as they would have if they were in the office rather than making them use their own. You need to ensure your remote employees have all the resources they may need to be as productive as possible.

4. Have regular meetings

It’s important that your remote employees feel like a part of the team and not forgotten even though they are not present in the office. An effective way to do that is by hosting regular meetings to discuss projects and assign tasks, but also to just chat as a team.

You should also have regular one-to-one meetings which shows that even at a distance, you are hands-on with them and invested in their progress.

5. Keep them involved

As a valuable member of the team, it’s also crucial to keep all remote employees involved in processes, projects and important conversations. Make sure they are as privy to company information and new procedures as an in-office employee, and if they should attend a meeting that you’re holding in the office, invite them to attend virtually.

If you involve remote employees in the daily operations of the business, they are more likely to feel like a valued member of the team and contribute just the same.

6. Show trust

Working in a remote position requires a certain level of discipline and time management ability to achieve goals, meet expectations and work on pace with co-workers. If you’re hiring a remote employee, make sure they feel that you trust them from day one of their employment.

By showing trust in your team, they will be more likely to experience high job satisfaction.

7. Encourage collaboration

Just as remote employees may feel distant from you as their manager, they can feel separate from their teammates. Encourage collaboration among all members of the group, remote and otherwise, to increase camaraderie and develop a sense of teamwork.

8. Encourage a work-life balance

It’s common for remote employees to struggle with maintaining a work-life balance because when you work from home, it may not be as easy to walk away from your office setup to settle into your personal routine. Encourage your remote employees to treat their day as if they were in the office.

9. Recognition

“During periods of disruption, employees’ desire for recognition of their contribution increases by about 30%,” says Kropp.

Effective recognition motivates the recipient and serves as a strong signal to other employees of behaviours they should emulate. It doesn’t need to be monetary; consider public acknowledgment, tokens of appreciation, development opportunities and low-cost perks. Take this opportunity to provide development opportunities to employees who normally do not have capacity.

10. Provide coaching

Provide regular coaching to remote employees so they can feel included and so they know if they are on the right track with their work. Coaching also allows you to clarify or adjust your expectations and discuss any changes with your employees. Coaching can be positive or include ways for the employee to improve their work.

11. Individualize employees

It’s important to treat employees as a collective whole, but also to individualize them as everyone has unique goals, hobbies, aspirations and work styles. Remote employees are no different. Chat with them to understand how they approach their work and what their workday looks like so you can know how you can help and the style of coaching your employees may appreciate most.

12. Communicate often

Because remote employees work separately from their co-workers, they are more likely to feel separated from everyone. A way to prevent this is to communicate often with your remote employees.

Communicate regularly and combine video meetings with talks over the phone.

13. Build rapport

Build rapport with your remote employees by taking the time to get to know them on a personal level. Ask them about their hobbies, interests and how their workday is going. Rapport will naturally develop the more you meet with your remote employees, build trust and work closely on projects they are taking lead on.

14. Form team goals

Team goals can help all employees work together toward a shared objective and establish a strong sense of teamwork. Having team goals naturally promotes collaboration among co-workers, including remote employees who may not be used to working closely with the group outside of specific projects.

15. Ask them about their career goals

It’s important to speak with your remote employees about their career goals so you can involve them in projects or with groups that will help them get closer to their main objective. Having an open conversation about their goals lets them know that you support their path in the organization, and it will help you establish developmental goals for them that make sense.

16. Meet in-person

If possible, schedule in-person meetings with your remote employees. Face-to-face interaction can be a powerful way of communicating because there is less opportunity for miscommunication, more ability to ask questions and your gestures and expressions can reinforce your message. It also allows employees to get to know you a little more and vice versa, which further builds rapport and can help establish employee loyalty.

You can also arrange team gatherings where every employee gathers together for a work trip or a day-long office meeting that covers the state of the business and incorporates team-building activities to reinforce collaboration and the company culture.

Understand common work from home challenges:

Typically, there are four main challenges leaders encounter when managing a remote workforce.

1. Lack of face time with co-workers and supervisors

Face-to-face interaction is vital to company culture and workplace encounters. The absence of in-person communication can be strongly felt by virtual teams.

2. Video fatigue

On the flip side of the previous bullet, using Zoom all the time to aid connection can have worse consequences. Empower employees to decide as a team and when meeting internally if they want to be on camera or not. Requiring all cameras all the time – unless client facing – can erode morale and is just another way to senselessly control and micromanage what employees are doing.

3. Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks

When working remotely, we can’t peek over the cubicle or slip down the hall to see if a colleague or supervisor is around to answer a quick question. Plus, for all their convenience, slack messages and emails can go unnoticed.

4. Surrounding distractions

Whether it’s another coffee shop customer accidentally spilling sugar on a remote worker or a cheerful toddler giving a mighty shout from the living room during a zoom call, distractions seem to come with the remote work territory.

Assuming such incidents don’t become routine, patience is helpful – especially when remote work is a temporary solution to a short-term event, situation or crisis.

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