Managing Remote Employees: The 3 Best Practices That Will Raise Productivity When Working from Home
Improve engagement and productivity with your remote employees
Everyone has their own work style, and that’s more than true when it comes to working from home. You might be used to the challenge of managing different personalities in your workplace, but are the same strategies successful when dealing with remote employees?
Building and sustaining successful relationships with each of your team members is the secret to ensuring productivity. While we all know what that looks like in an office setting, remote work delivers a unique set of challenges.
For example, recent surveys by Buffer and Google show that employees working from home struggle with connecting with their teammates and dealing with loneliness. In this context, leadership’s top priorities should be to develop new strategies to effectively manage remote employees.
But working from home also comes with benefits. In fact, employees enjoy skipping the commute, saving on dry cleaning bills, and creating their own schedules. As a leader It’s your job to help your team recognize the advantages of working from home, while using strategies that mitigate the disadvantages.
3 Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees
According to research by Gallup, 43% of all U.S. employees work off-site sometimes. And with social distancing guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the number of companies with work from home policies is now much higher. Whether your team was already working from home on occasion, or has just started to, here are the best practices, strategies and tools that make remote work productive and gratifying.
1. Schedule Regular Check-Ins
Working from home means no more casual chats by the coffee machine or group lunches. And without these activities, your employees will find they have less context for understanding the work they’re doing. That’s why, despite what some may think, meetings are an essential component of managing remote workers effectively.
It can even help to remind your employees that they are telecommuting. When you telecommute, you’re still commuting – just virtually. That means your staff is expected to attend meetings and communicate regularly.
When managing remote employees, you might not be able to meet face-to-face with your coworkers. Even if you don’t have your direct report sitting in front of you, it’s important to develop both a personal and a professional connection. One-on-one meetings are a valuable opportunity to make sure that remote employees feel heard and valued – as well as invested in the direction of the company as a whole.
Regular team check-ins keep everyone on track and help each team member understand how their tasks fit into larger group goals. This is especially important because they’re no longer getting to see what their coworkers are doing on a daily basis. Because the unexpected happens, now is the perfect time to review goals and adjust schedules as necessary to make sure everyone sees their work as achievable.
Tips for successful check-ins with remote employees
- Celebrate employee contributions & accomplishments. Employee anniversaries and project milestones might be celebrated more spontaneously when in office. When working remotely, they’re still an important tool for motivation, so don’t forget them.
- Set a clear meeting agenda with input from both parties. The key to keeping employees engaged during a check in meeting is to have them collaborate on the agenda. Empower them to get the answers and tools they need to do the best job.
- Decide on a check in schedule. Your employees might find that when working from home, there are specific times of the day when they’re most productive. There could also be days of the week when they’re most likely to need direction on priorities and projects. Work with your team to find the best schedule for check ins that move work forward instead of interrupting it.
2. Set Clear Goals and Track Them
When you suddenly find yourself managing remote workers, you’ll need the help of all your team members to achieve your business objectives. While those objectives might be clear to you, it’s important to translate them into specific goals for each team member. Adopt SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based) goals when supervising remote employees.
Specific and time-based goals: Help your team turn what might seem like an unstructured today, into an attainable plan of attack.
Measurable goals: Give you and them the peace of mind to know that even if you’re not directly supervising employees, progress is being made.
Achievable and realistic goals: Raise morale as you can celebrate the small wins, instead of waiting for the big one.
Tips for goal-setting and tracking
- Make it visual. Keep your team accountable by visualizing individual progress. For example, you can use a corporate screensaver which defaults to showing your team the latest metrics. Whenever they sit back down in their homes office they see exactly where everyone is at.
- Share your own goals. Remember that it’s not only your employees who should articulate goals. Share what you’re trying to accomplish as a team leader while also communicating the company’s goals and roadmap. Just because you’re the leader, doesn’t mean accountability only goes one way.
3. Develop clear and consistent communication guidelines
When speaking face-to-face, it’s easy to ask for clarification – and get it right away. But telecommuting means juggling incoming messages from different communication channels at the same time without the context of body language and tone of voice. And all while tuning out children, pets and housemates. This makes it hard to have an efficient conversation when collaborating remotely.
Luckily, if you and your coworkers can all agree on some ground rules for communication, you’ll avoid misunderstandings and get work done.
Availability. You don’t expect your direct reports to be available every minute of the day when they’re in the office, so don’t expect it when working remotely. Instead, agree upon what times of the day are critical for collaboration. When you do step away, update your colleagues, so they aren’t left waiting.
Technology. Maybe your company has dedicated communication channels and apps. If it doesn’t, select which technologies employees should enable on their devices. Using the same video conferencing solution no matter who sends the meeting invite can save a lot of time. You can even discuss which notification settings are enabled, so you’re sure no one is left out of a conversation.
Purpose. Make it clear why you’re choosing a virtual meeting over an email. When you share why you’re taking time to communicate, employees will see it as a good use of time. For example, if you need to brainstorm or collaborate, video conferencing works much better than email.
Tips for effectively managing remote communication
- Respect working hours. Employees need to have a start and end to their workday if they’re going to recharge and remain productive.
- Be aware of context. Frustrated that an employee who keeps giving you short replies in a messaging app? Don’t jump to conclusions. After all – you can’t see that their child has just spilled coffee on the keyboard.
- Use the right communication tools. If you haven’t already, explore dedicated tools for remote work. Slack lets you connect with your team across devices. Trello manages tasks and workflows. Digital signage software like Enplug shows corporate communications.