Remote employees are ubiquitous across every business sector and provide a wealth of benefits to the workforce and to their companies. Managing remote employees can be a challenge in terms of productivity and engagement.
While technology can virtually eliminate the most troubling aspects of geographic distance, it cannot automatically recreate casual interactions that lead to team building. For example, technology may provide the tools for collaboration, but it can create an uneven playing field between onsite and remote employees.
As a manager or employer, this goes way beyond the balance of trust and clear guidelines in terms of creating a productive, active and happy unified business culture. As a foundation to creating that unified and productive culture, here are five tips for managing remote employees.
1. Provide the Right Tools
Clearly, the communication and work product tools are a foundation that makes it possible to have remote employees. However, stakeholders and managers must go beyond basic tools for remote document creation and collaboration access as well as video conferencing tools and project management software. What cannot be overlooked is how best to use those tools in ways that level the communication playing field for both onsite and remote employees.
2: Include Remote Workers in Onsite Meetings.
Communication and productivity tools must be used effectively to bring together remote and onsite employees. That means making a continuous effort to fully include remote workers in onsite meetings.
It’s important to make sure that remote employees have regular face time, so make sure that where possible some meetings are on their schedule so that they can come into the office and participate. In addition, managing remote employees will require owners to conduct meetings from remote offices to reverse the process whenever feasible. This
ensures that remote employees are getting feedback, fostering personal connections, and enabling closer collaboration.
3: Incorporate Recognition of Offsite Employee Contributions and Milestones.
It’s imperative to broadly acknowledge the accomplishments of remote employees via social media, newsletters and other internal business-wide communications platforms. Digital rewards programs that enable them to choose a gift online to communicate their worth and contributions sets the stage for a unified team, increased productivity, and greater success.
The goal for managing remote employees is to replicate the qualities of a face-to-face work environment wherever and whenever possible. As the theme that runs through this article, that means using technology as a tool rather than a crutch, which leads to the next tip.
4: Manage by Results
Technology can become a crutch that lessens your success in managing remote employees rather than enhancing it. For example, monitoring software and other methods of employee check-ins can lead to micromanaging remote employees and severely inhibits the trust factor. Focus less on time spent and more on results and everyone will be happier.
5: Listen between the Lines
Phone communications with remote workers requires paying a great deal of attention to what you may hear in the background as well as what you may hear in their voice and words. Typing in the background can mean multitasking and divided attention while street and crowd noises can mean they’re in transit or in a less than ideal conversational environment. Although the chief responsibility of ensuring the right environment for work conversations falls to the remote employee, managers must do their part.
Be prepared to acknowledge and make allowances for these types of distractions so that you respect the remote workers time as well as ensuring that they are respecting yours. Being in a leadership position with remote workers as part of a larger team requires a mindset that acknowledges the differences in experiences that remote workers go through. That means taking their communication needs into account and making sure that onsite employees do the same.
Rather than just choosing connecting tools, choose interconnecting tools that foster collaboration and put all team members on the same footing. The goal is to have everyone doing what they can to create a unified team. You accomplish this by creating an onsite and remote work environment that can blend seamlessly in myriad ways to achieve higher productivity and workforce satisfaction.
Sheila Kloefkorn is the President & CEO of KEO Marketing Inc.She was recently recognized as one of the Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year by the Phoenix Business Journal. Sheila can be reached at [email protected]