Managing Remote Employees : The Definite Guide


Remote work has been one of the most popular office trends of 2018 – and it is one that looks like it will continue into 2019 and beyond.

The increase of remote workers – Global Workplace Analytics reports that as much as 50% of the workforce is in a telecommuting role this year – proves that this is a trend to stay, and is only likely to increase in the next few years.

This means that now is the time for business owners to embrace remote working – and for those who have already decided to create a remote team, to be doing all that they can to ensure that their virtual panel is the best it can be.

Problems with Remote Working

Remote working is great! Employees can save money on transport costs, there is less workplace stress and the general sense of gratitude that workers have reflects positively on the rest of the team. And these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many more, for both employers and employees.

But a big worry that many managers have about remote working is whether virtual teams are harder to manage. In some circumstances, they are – it is obviously generally easier to have a quick word with someone when they are physically sitting next to you. However, today’s technology makes working remotely so easy that it can feel like the team is in the same room.

Some issues that remote managers run into  when organising remote teams are:

  • Scheduling meetings across time zones
  • Effective communication
  • Dealing with cultural misunderstandings
  • Having less camaraderie due to not physically seeing the team
  • Experiencing a lack of trust also due to not being physical with employees

Fortunately, most of these challenges of managing remote employees can be overcome; and once they are, managers can reap the real benefits of hiring remote workers.

Managing Staff Who Work Remotely: The How-To Guide

Think about who you are hiring

Some businesses take the leap from having a band of in-house employees to a completely remote team made up of the same people. There are disadvantages and advantages to doing this.

  • Advantages include that managers already know the employees and have a good knowledge about how they work.
  • A significant disadvantage is the fact that the employees might not be used to working remotely and have more trouble transitioning to virtual work than new employees.

Other remote teams may consist of new employees who haven’t previously worked for the company. This does have some advantages of course, as there is a much wider pool of workers available (managers can select people from all over the world!) and if employers would like to, they can select people with previous remote working experience as well as proficiency working in their field.

The disadvantage of doing this is that managers don’t have first-hand knowledge of how a person works and it might be even more difficult to assess their initial progress online. If they are hiring nationally or internationally, they may not even be able to have a face to face interview with them.

However, by having specific interview questions, remote managers can ensure that they hire a skilled workforce who are used to the challenges that remote working can pose. With the right interview questions, even video interviews can determine who is the best candidate for the job!

Criteria that managers should look for include:

  • Motivation – remote workers must be self-motivated and not need people to constantly remind them about work needing to be done.
  • Good communication – this is vital to keep managers and colleagues updated on anything work-related.
  • Results-driven – remote employees must have a good idea of the end game and be passionate about what they do.
  • Open and honest – being realistic and communicative about their work is vital to ensure that everyone is aware of any hurdles, challenges or successes.

You might be wondering how to effectively train remote employees once you have your team set up. If they are a set of new employees, the best way to train is probably via video chat or YouTube live, where workers can get detailed verbal training. Some managers also like to put together training courses for their remote employees where they can complete virtual modules and track their progress.

If you’re moving from an in-office to a remote team, some things that you’ll have to consider are:

  • Retraining – do any members of the team need to be retrained to ensure that they have the required skills to work remotely?
  • Re-analysing – do anyone’s job roles need to be reviewed to ensure that they will be performing to the best of their abilities?
  • Reviewing expectations – when offices move environments, expectations change. Giving employees a clear idea of these before they switch to remote work is crucial to make sure that it is done effectively.

Once you have your team and you’re confident that they have all the requirements to be a successful remote worker, you’re ready to start managing effectively!

Think about whether they will be remote all the time

One of the main questions to consider when building a remote team is whether they will be remote five days a week.

The answer to this largely depends on who you’re employing – whether they are workers local to where your company is based or if you have employed them virtually. It will be impossible for some teams to meet once a week, whereas colleagues who have previously worked in-house together may be more tempted.

And it’s different for every industry – some businesses function well with one office day per week whereas others are fine being permanently remote.

If you are nervous about managing remote employees for the first time, it might be worth scheduling one or more office days per week initially. However, space needs to be considered here – one of the amazing advantages of remote work for employers is the lack of need for office space, so it might actually be counterproductive to have office days and be better just to jump in at the deep end.

Organise an event once a year

This might be harder if your remote team is spread all over the world, but do consider an event once a year to get everybody involved. Whether this is work-related or purely social is dependent on the team’s wishes and needs, but it’s a great idea to actually see everyone face to face.

Having an event helps to not only get to know your remote employees on a deeper level, but to increase work loyalty and strengthens teams and sub-teams.

Set a schedule

One of the best tips for managing remote employees is to ensure that the schedule is adapted for this new environment.

Your schedule for new remote employees might be slightly different to your schedule for in-house employees. For example, you might need to schedule meetings at different times (this is especially important if you have employees in different time zones), and have sometimes where people work on individual projects and other times when workers do things as groups.

You might also need to consider that for many people, a perk of remote working is that they don’t have to be online from 9 to 5 and instead can work around appointments, look after children and handle other commitments.

It is up to you to decide whether you prefer your employees to be logged in from 9 to 5, or are happy with a more flexible schedule. This is also a crucial thing to discuss with your team before work begins!

Have effective meetings

Having engaging meetings is crucial for your company’s success, especially when you first go remote. These can be achieved by:

  • Knowing your software inside out and predicting any hitches that might happen.
  • Having a plan B for situations when the software does fail.
  • Planning the agenda before the meeting and share it with the team in advance, asking if anyone has any input.
  • Establishing any ground rules – for example determining how people request to talk – before the remote meeting.

Don’t forget to build a rapport

When you haven’t met your employees face to face, remote working can feel a little bit like a machine.

But don’t forget that there is a person behind the computer – and it is crucial that you maintain a good relationship with them. Employees are far more likely to be dedicated to their job when they feel appreciated and valued, and maintaining a good rapport does just that.

Small talk may feel like a waste of time when running a remote team, but in fact, it’s crucial for employee satisfaction and is very important if you want to have a successful business.

Schedule one on one chats with each employee

One on one chats with your employees is very important – the frequency and amount of time of each will depend on your business and the nature of your employees’ jobs. However, it is a great idea to schedule a one on one chat with each remote employee up to once a week.

In this time, they can comment on anything related to work, ask business questions and voice concerns. They may have ideas and opinions that they can’t or don’t want to dictate in meetings and having scheduled time for an individual conversation will encourage them to speak up.

Be considerate of time zones

If you have people working across different continents, you will probably be dealing with several time zones. This means that you’ll need to be considerate of when to schedule meetings – while employees probably won’t mind a 6 pm meeting every so often, they probably won’t want to do one most days.

One of the best ways of overcoming time zones with remote employees is to vary the times you have meetings. As a manager, this might mean that you end up having some late-night meetings on your time zone to keep your employees happy.

Use the right software for your team

As your remote team relies purely on technology, it is crucial that you use the correct software. The best software for you will vary hugely depending on your line of work, but popular applications include:

  • Zoom for video calls and real-time communication.
  • Microsoft Teams for shared workspace.
  • YouTube live for broadcasting or training the team – this is a great remote working management software for you to get to grips with.
  • Asana for task tracking, including due dates, progress on projects and time tracking
  • Trello for organising projects that a few different people are involved in.
  • Microsoft OneDrive is ideal for storage and for sending large files and works seamlessly with Outlook.
  • Microsoft Office Real Time Collaboration means that documents can be edited in real time and shared with the whole team.
  • I Done This is a simple check-in app helps people stay on top of tasks and makes it simple to see what has been done.

Make sure that everyone has the hardware needed

Remote employees often use their own laptop, but it’s imperative to make sure that each worker has a machine that will sync with any software that they need and work well in the office environment.

If they don’t have one, it is up to you as a manager to decide what to do: some will need the employee to get the correct machine themselves, others will offer financial support and others will try to adapt to accommodate with what the worker does have.

Other positions may require a smartphone, tablet or other gadgets. Ensuring that everyone has the required technology from the beginning will help to make the new remote team a success.

Have the required technology yourself!

It’s vital that you, as the manager, have the best technology that can handle both remote work and managing various people from all over the globe.

As well as a top-notch computer, think about investing in an interactive display. These are ideal for meetings with your remote employees; you can see individual employees in a larger size or even many at once!

You can also jot out your thoughts on the interactive displays and pull information from the web – both of which will appear on your employees’ devices wherever they are in the world.

Conclusion

While managing remote teams can seem daunting, there are plenty of ways to manage one and to guarantee that everything runs smoothly during the transition and afterwards.

By ensuring that you have the right people on the team, use the correct software and hardware and that everybody has the same mentality, you can create a fantastic virtual workplace. Remote work is the way of the future, and it’s not as daunting as it seems!