Remote workers have become increasingly common in today’s workforce, with more and more businesses supporting and encouraging the idea of employees working from home.
These days, many organisations are made up entirely of remote team members, working across different continents and time zones from their home offices, co-working spaces, city libraries, or local cafés!
While remote working has many benefits, for both individuals and their employees, it also has its challenges. Practicing clear communication, staying up-to-date with collective goals, and maintaining productivity are all key to remote work.
If you’re managing remote employees, it’s important to know how to make the arrangement a success for the worker, as well as your team and organisation.
Here are some tips you might find helpful when it comes to managing remote employees.
Schedule regular face-to-face time
While working from home has its definite perks, over time it can make you feel a bit disconnected from the team and regular office life.
There’s no doubt that collaboration technology is making remote teams just as efficient and productive as traditional workplace environments. However, as a remote worker you’ll no doubt be missing out on face-to-face interactions with colleagues and managers.
A recent article in Forbes discussed how important it is for remote workers to remain networked as closely as possible with peers and leaders in the office. To achieve this, managers of remote workers should be scheduling regular face-to-face time with team members working away from the office, through Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts.
Having this ongoing contact between manager and employee will help anchor the employee back to the company, while also maintaining a positive working relationship between manager and team member.
Use collaboration tools to connect remote teams
In addition to face-to-face time over video calls, you’ll want to invest in collaboration tools that allow remote workers to stay connected to the team.
Slack is a very popular and handy collaboration tool, suitable for both small and large companies. Through Slack, you can link all of your remote workers together, allowing them to easily communicate and share files in real-time.
Programs such as Slack boost transparency and a feeling of team connectivity, giving employees the ability to chat with colleagues about their projects (or anything really!) and see what their team members are working on at any given time. You can also quickly and easily jump onto a voice or video call through the Slack platform, so your team mates are only ever as far away as the call button.
Invest in the development of remote workers
As a manager, you’re no doubt invested in the professional development of your staff. After all, helping employees to boost their skills, knowledge and experience is a key part of being an effective leader. It’s also highly beneficial to the business, as a company is only ever as good as its people!
Unfortunately, however, remote workers can sometimes be neglected when it comes to professional development – even though this is most likely unintentional. In the same way, employees who work away from the office on a full-time basis can often be overlooked for recognition or promotion. It’s harder to be noticed when you’re less visible.
To avoid this from happening, managers must make a conscious effort to include remote workers in ongoing training and development opportunities. Which is easy to do these days with the help of online learning.
Schedule quarterly sessions, to check in with their progress and identify any learning needs or skills gaps. Enrol them in relevant online training courses and modules. Let them know that you are invested in their development and growth, and keen to support their career goals.
Keep your remote team members in the loop
On that note, it may seem quite small and trivial, but one of the biggest challenges of remote work is feeling left out of the loop and distant from colleagues and team mates.
As a manager, it’s important that you make an effort to keep remote employees up-to-date with things going on around the office – large and small. Keep them informed of organisational news, such as recent hires, internal job postings, milestone events, exciting awards won… all of this will help remote workers to feel more included and connected.
Why not end your regular Skype meetings on this kind of catch up note? You might be surprised at how many good ideas come out over these less formal conversations.
Establish trust and communication with remote workers
To be effective at working remotely, employees need to be clear and proactive communicators. Being able to communicate well with managers is absolutely essential for remote workers. And vice versa.
For most managers, it’s easy to see when an employee is just having a bad day, as opposed to genuinely struggling with their workload. When your team members are right there in front of you in the office, you’re able to get a pretty good sense of how they are tracking.
However, when managing remote employees, especially those working in different countries and time zones, it’s much harder to know what’s really going on. That’s why it’s important to build a positive and trusting relationship with remote staff.
By establishing trust and honest communication, you’re letting remote workers know that they can come to you if they need help with their workload, deadlines, clients, or any factor that could be affecting their job. All of the steps above will help you to build that trusting working relationship.
Want to read more about working remotely? You may also like to check out our top tips for being a successful remote worker.