Remote Employees: It’s no secret that remote working is increasingly becoming more and more common all over the world. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there are already more than 4.7 million remote workers in the U.S., and obviously, the number has risen throughout 2020 with the COVID-19 quarantine forcing more people to work from home.
While there are certainly many benefits for both the employers and employees in implementing remote working, the situation also presents more challenges especially for managers. Managing remote employees and ensuring they stay motivated and productive is already challenging in a traditional workplace setting, and it’s even more difficult in remote working with the lack of face-to-face interaction and supervision.
In this article, we will discuss some effective ways of how to effectively manage remote employees, but let us first begin by discussing some common challenges of remote working.
4 Crucial Challenges of Remote Working
Before we can improve the management process, it’s crucial for remote team managers to understand factors that can make remote work situations especially challenging, and here are the four most crucial ones:
1. Lack of Direct Supervision
The lack of face-to-face interaction is obviously a very big issue in remote working. On the one hand, managers and supervisors worry that the team members won’t work as efficiently or seriously. On the other hand, employees also struggle with the lack of access to managerial communications. This can often result in miscommunications and the feeling that the managers aren’t being sufficiently supportive.
2. Loneliness/social isolation
One of the most common complaints from employees, especially for those with extraverted personality traits, is loneliness. We can’t deny the importance of those informal social interactions in an office setting, which can be quite difficult to replicate in remote working situations. Studies even suggested that when prolonged, this feeling of social isolation may result in increased intention to leave the company.
3. Reduced access to information
This is especially true for those transitioning from a traditional office setting to remote work, where they’ll need to spend more time and effort to access information from coworkers and managers. This can result in a lot of miscommunications in the long-run, and a study has suggested that due to these miscommunications, remote workers may give a lower willingness to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt when problems arise.
For most people, their homes aren’t designed to be a workplace, and many people even don’t have any dedicated workspace. This can result in various distractions, especially if the employee also has children at the same house. Maintaining work-life balance is already difficult in a traditional workplace, and it’s even more challenging in remote working.
How To Effectively Manage Your Remote Team
1. Make Sure Everything Is Measurable
Since, as discussed, miscommunications can be a major issue in managing remote employees, it’s very important to define clear objectives and make sure everyone can track their progress against these objectives.
If you don’t have tangible data about your team’s performance, you can’t identify potential bottlenecks and areas that you can improve upon. So, define clear, measurable objectives and assign the right KPIs.
Also, define clear company-wide policies relating to the remote work like defining work hours (when everyone must be available for calls and meetings) from 9 to 5, setting clear deadlines, etc.
The more of the remote working variables are clear and measurables, the easier you can monitor everything to identify bottlenecks and find the solutions.
2. Implement a Proper Work Management Infrastructure
Be sure to track the progress of your remote employees daily against the objectives you’ve defined above. By staying on top of project status, you can identify problems as early as possible by reviewing tasks and responsibilities every day.
By closely monitoring your remote employee’s progress, you can also give them periodic feedback and listen to their concerns to ensure they are heading in the right direction.
Work management and time tracking softwares such as Workplus can help you effectively manage remote employees. You can create automatic scheduling, timesheets, track projects and tasks, and measure your employees’ productivity in a single dashboard.
If you want to get the most of your remote employees, you need to measure their performance regularly. Analyze how much time each individual employee spends on each task, and if you find any potential issues, communicate it with them and find solutions together.
3. Spend Time on One on Ones
Since in a remote working scenario you won’t have enough time to build rapport with face-to-face small talks, you should invest more time for one-on-ones with your remote employees.
Use this time to provide regular feedback and show appreciation when they’ve performed, and encourage them to voice their concerns and give their feedback on your supervision.
- Whether their current workload is manageable, and whether the objectives are clear
- Whether they feel the established objectives are still relevant/realistic to achieve
- Whether there are any issues and bottlenecks that prevent progress on the task. Work together to uncover the cause of the issue.
Also, communicate clearly about when they can reach you and how (i.e. via Slack or video conferencing tool Callbridge, etc.), and set boundaries of when you are not available for calls and won’t reply to emails. Define clearly when your door is actually ‘open’ for them so they know that you are accessible.
While on the one hand, a lot of things about managing remote employees are exactly the same as in on-location workforce management, there are also some areas that require unique approaches due to the unique challenges in remote working. Implementing these tips we’ve shared above is an investment for you as a manager so you can manage your remote employees more effectively and help improve their performances
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