The pandemic has fast-tracked a staggering number of businesses’ path to remote working, with many managers and employees working from home for the very first time. But make no bones about it, working remotely is where we are all heading.
Prior to the crisis, approximately 62% of employees aged between 22 and 65 said they worked remotely at least some of the time already (source: Owl Labs) and the number of people working remotely at least once a week has grown a whopping 500% since 2010 (source: GetApp).
Employee’s interest in remote working is at an all-time high too, with 99% of people saying they would opt to work from home (on a minimum part-time basis) for the rest of their working lives if they could (source: Buffer). This means that increasingly, we are seeing businesses offer remote opportunities as an incentive to recruit talented staff.
As the popularity of remote working continues to grow, it’s become more important than ever to know how to successfully manage remote employees
Perhaps you are a CEO or a manager trying to adapt to teleworking for the first time, and manage your employees effectively out of the office. Or maybe your team has been telecommuting for years, and you are simply looking for better ways to handle a remote workforce. Whatever the reason may be, we are here to help.
As a remote company ourselves (as well as having also worked remotely for others) we have in-depth knowledge on how to run a high-performing team who work from home. Check out our top tips for improving productivity, engagement and keeping employees happy.
Below are the tips we’ll be covering in this guide. Feel free to jump straight ahead at any time:
A Communication Strategy is Important
One of the biggest reasons remote workers are unproductive is due to a lack of communication from their boss or manager as to what is expected of them. Mitigate this by creating a clear communication strategy. This includes:
- Setting guidelines of what you expect to be completed over the working day or week ahead of time
- Highlighting tasks in order of priority, so there isn’t any confusion as to what is urgent or not
- Explain the number of report-ins you expect from staff each week
Get to Know Your Remote Workers
It can be easy when managing people remotely to simply talk about the nitty-gritty: tasks that need to be completed, goals for the week, etc. It’s often the case that daily small talk -inevitable in workplace environments – gets forgotten about. But it’s important. Getting to know your remote staff (and having a genuine interest in doing so) forges closer bonds, and is one of the best ways of creating a happier remote team.
Focus on Business Goals
Remember what really counts: achieving company goals, not honing in on people’s level of activity. If your remote staff are accomplishing this, that is what ultimately matters. If this isn’t the case, then it’s time to review the situation with relevant staff members via a virtual meeting.
Be purposeful when having meetings or scheduling work for the week by providing clear expectations on what you expect from your workforce. Providing structure helps reduce workers’ stress and increases productivity.
Use Video Whenever Possible
A pitfall of remote working can be missing out on important visual clues that we’d see if we were in an office. This can affect your ability to gauge the overall mood of employees, or genuine thoughts on business plans or ideas. It’s why it’s important to use video chat solutions as much as you can.
There’s a wide range of free or cheap video conferencing tools (such as Zoom or Hangout) that you can use to interact with employees.
When bosses micromanage remote employees, it’s usually down to an underlying lack of trust in their ability to do what is right for the company. However, micromanaging your staff won’t encourage your team to do better. If anything, it will demotivate them, as your lack of trust will be evident. Even worse, the stress caused by being on the receiving end of such treatment could lead them to leave the company outright.
Instead, make sure you put your complete confidence in your employees to do the job successfully, unless proven otherwise. If performance does become a cause for concern, then it can be addressed when it arises.
Don’t Forget Career Development
Remember that your remote staff members have career goals too, so make sure you dedicate time to discuss career development with them. Be sure to stick to any agreements on your side that you make during these meetings. This helps to reduce staff frustration, which in the longer term can have a harmful impact on productivity. Genuinely support your workers on their way up the remote career ladder, and you’ll keep employees on board, and save on the massive costs incurred on rehiring.
Prioritize Their Wellbeing
Don’t forget that it’s a win-win situation for both employees and businesses alike if you invest in remote workers wellbeing. When staff are happy and healthy, statistics show they will be more productive, use their time more effectively, and more likely to remain with the company too.
Working from home can present a unique set of challenges if mental and physical health is not made a top priority. For example, telecommuters may report feeling isolated, depressed or suffer from health issues (such as back pain or weight gain) that can be facilitated by a poor remote working setup.
Help your employees help themselves by investing in a subscription to Working Den. The online platform is specifically designed for remote workers, providing a range of features to help facilitate a happy, healthy work-life balance.
For example, employees using the Working Den platform can:
- Take a burnout or depression test, and receive professional advice
- Receive regular reminders to look away from the screen to avoid eye strain
- Get fit with the platform’s online workout videos
- De-stress with guided breathing exercises
- Prevent body aches and pains with daily stretch video, designed for remote workers
- Practice gratitude with the online journal
- Be more productive with the Working Den timer, which follows the world-renowned Pomodoro Technique
Equip Your Remote Team
A variety of virtual communication tools are needed for an efficient remote workforce, so make sure you are using them (for instance: Slack, Trello and other similar free collaborative tools) or investing in paid ones that help your staff work better. Relying on email alone is simply not enough.
Organisation is Key
Failing to keep on top of things due to a lack of an organized schedule is a recipe for disaster in the workplace. This also applies for teams working from afar too. Tackle this head-on by using project management tools such as Asana or Monday wherever possible. They are fantastic at providing structure to the working week and months ahead for your staff.
If applicable to your industry, consider also creating content calendars that can be shared via your chosen collaborative tool so that all parties know the status of current projects (as well as future projects too).
Consider Using Brainstorming Tools
One thing many people managing remote workforces fail to do is engage their team in brainstorming online. This is vital for fostering engagement and their personal investment in your brand. Letting your team get creative encourages innovation.
Check out highly recommended brainstorming tools such as Miro, mural.co and FunRetro or even try out simple but reliable Google Docs.
Listening is Vital
Being a good listener is essential to managing a remote team effectively. Encourage staff feedback (and be genuinely willing to take on board what is said to you in a constructive manner) where possible. For remote teams, carrying out online surveys can be a fantastic way to motivate staff to provide their thoughts.
With overarching goals established and expectations outlined, being flexible with your remote working team shouldn’t be an issue. After all, one of the main attractions of telecommuting for many people is the ability to work more flexibly than the standard 9-5, so keep this in mind.
Providing the tasks are completed to a high standard and on schedule, when they put their hours in should not be so important. You can relax a little!
Don’t Forget Promotions
According to an extensive worldwide study by Stanford University, teleworkers are less likely to be promoted than office workers. This is despite statistics showing that on average, telecommuters are more productive than those who are in the office.
Consistently forgetting to promote remote workers will make them feel devalued, and likely motivate staff to find another job.
Have Regular One-to-One Meetings
Having regular one-to-one meetings (via videoconferencing) with your remote colleagues is essential when the chance of running into each other in the office and having a catch up is non-existent. Get to know your team and build a rapport, understand their needs and their current goals.
We hope our tips have helped you understand clearly the steps you need to take to successfully lead staff as a remote manager or boss of a remote company. By taking positive action, you can successfully navigate the world of remote work management.