Out-of-sight should not equate to out-of-mind when it comes to leading a successful staff. After all, your employees represent your company – even if they are in a different state or continent. If you want to face a leadership challenge, having the responsibility of managing remote employees will certainly put your skills to the test. However, this is a test you can pass when communication, productivity and team collaboration are part of your management plan.
Let’s explore five ways that you can effectively manage remote employees and have a cohesive work environment.
1. Inspire Remote Employees with a “Big Picture” Perspective
Project deadlines and managing workflows are important tasks in your role as a manager to ensure work is completed efficiently. Equally important is your ability as a leader to engage employees who might lose sight of the bigger picture. Distance can create a wedge between business objectives and the intrinsic value of knowing you are doing meaningful work.
Let remote employees know how their work contributes to the overall success of the department and company. Never lose your inspirational touch for the sake of transactional instruction. Both are important to making sure employees know that every position on the organization chart is essential.
2. Manage Results, Not Employee Work Styles
When managing remote employees, your goal should be to focus on the quality of work produced rather than how work gets done. Nuances of how – and when – people work typically become more pronounced in a remote environment. Evaluating performance based on how long an employee takes to reply to an email can lead to the wrong conclusion. Instead of focusing on points of style, focus on tangible and intangible results from employees.
For instance, tangible results may involve employees who consistently meet project deadlines. Look for quality work that demonstrates their ability to meet or exceed performance expectations. Intangible efforts of collaborating, generating fresh ideas and good decision-making are ways to measure effective performance by remote employees.
In addition, tell employees that unplugging is also essential when working from home. Work and personal lines are often blurred, which hurt productivity. Encourage them to create a balance with their flexible working arrangements.
3. Follow the Three Cs: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Remote communication requires extra effort to make things work properly. You cannot walk over to an employee’s cubicle, nor can they walk into your office when they have a question. As their manager and leader, you must go out of your way to address issues that are normal for any type of work environment. Beyond offering guidance that allows employees to move forward with a task, being available shows support. This will go a long way to strengthen relationships that foster positive collaboration.
Close the communication gap created by space and time zones reasonable guidelines for emails, chats and telephone calls.
4. Make Team-Building a Priority
Research shows that people are motivated when they have strong friendships with coworkers. Stronger relationships can fuel collaboration and productivity that benefits the entire company. In a physical office environment, most employees manage to form those relationships naturally. Remote work environments require fostering connections between employees as well as their connection with you. Team-building exercises can help to build a sense of “we” and strengthen those connections.
5. Never Waste Valuable Time During Conference Call Meetings
Just as in co-location environments, showing up for a meeting unprepared is an incredible time-waster. Gathering people across cultures and time zones adds enough complexity to a conference call. Effective agenda planning is the best way to avoid the virtual eye roll when a meeting is scheduled. Email the agenda before the meeting begins so employees can prepare important information if necessary. Stick to the agenda and answer any important questions.
Even when you do not see employees every day, develop connections that encourage commitment to tasks. Structure the remote working environment with clear, reasonable goals and rules. With the right tools and guidance from you, productivity and job satisfaction can improve for remote employees.