The last few years have perhaps seen the biggest change in employment trends. During the pandemic, people across all industries swapped traditional office-based roles for the four walls of their own homes, and despite the lifting of restrictions, remote working is here to stay for many businesses.
What does this mean for employers? Remote working has created a whole new set of challenges for managers, HR, and employees themselves. But in many ways, these challenges are outweighed by the wide range of improvements that remote working can bring to a business — all you need are the right management strategies.
How is managing remote employees different from office-based workers?
The main difference between managing remote workers and office-based workers is that you aren’t physically with them. For instance, chatting in a meeting room for 5 minutes is no longer an option so other ways of communicating are needed, not to mention that everyone’s WFH environment is different which poses various challenges for management teams.
Is remote working here to stay?
Work from home arrangements are here to stay in some form or another for most businesses. Because of the benefits of remote work that have been highlighted, many employers are looking for permanent remote staff. Offering remote work can make you a very appealing employer since many people prefer this type of work setup to traditional office-based roles — and by broadening your talent search, you can find great candidates both nationally and internationally that bring something new to the table.
Yes, internationally, as this revolution is far broader than many assume. Today’s robust internet infrastructure makes it technologically viable to cross national borders, leaving only logistical barriers — and those are being eroded by businesses like Remote, with a modern company having the option of using an employer of record service to handle all the details for overseas employment. Taxation, payroll, local compliance: it’s all covered.
So with nothing getting in the way of hiring and placing employees anywhere in the world, it’s hard to see how anything could reverse this change. It’s simply too convenient to be able to work anywhere — so if you’re managing a team, you need to build a comprehensive strategy around remote working.
How should you manage remote workers?
As discussed, when it comes to managing remote employees there are different things to think about. A lot has been learned throughout the pandemic when remote work was at its highest, but to get the most out of this kind of setup, it’s about adapting your management skills and understanding the needs of your team.
Here are 6 top tips for you to try:
1. Set expectations early to maintain high work standards
It’s important that your remote employees understand your expectations from the offset. As much as remote working can be a great asset to your business, there may be a temptation by some employees to bend the rules a little. Ensuring that everyone knows and understands work practices is key.
For example, you may want employees to attend morning meetings to ensure they are up and ready on time for the working day, or maybe you have rough guidelines as to how much work they should be completing. Time-tracking tools such as Float can help you oversee each person’s workflow and identify areas for improvement. More importantly, maintaining good communication will prevent disparity between remote teams and the general expectations from the business.
2. Create a clear onboarding process
In HR, there’s much you can do to help managers onboard their remote workers, and having a clear process in place will prevent unnecessary hiccups from occurring in the initial few weeks. Encourage managers to hold a virtual meeting on their employee's first day to welcome them to the business and get to know them on a personal level — this is even better if other team members join too!
For the week ahead, tasks should be set out (whether that’s training or getting stuck into work) so they aren’t left twiddling their thumbs at home. You want to set a good first impression! Ensure that they are set up on all relevant platforms, their new accounts are running, and generally have a plan in place for their onboarding.
3. Encourage remote workers to use their time off
Working from home can leave you even more burned out than working in an office. Why? Well often people work past their contracted hours since they’re already at home, but an extra 30 minutes or so every day can quickly add up.
Make your policy on annual leave clear. If you notice that remote staff do not have any vacation booked in, remind them of the process and encourage them to take time off. Not only will this reduce stress levels caused by overworking but it will create a better work-life balance which can often be blurred when working from home.
4. Check in with remote employees regularly
Regular check-ins with your remote team members will keep underlying issues from causing bigger problems. But there doesn’t need to be something wrong for you to ask if everything is okay; staying in good communication with your team will foster a great relationship.
A quick message can be enough to check up on how your remote staff are doing, along with video calls. This will give them an opportunity to voice any concerns or ask any questions. The last thing you want is for them to feel cut off from everyone, so always maintain open communication.
5. Acknowledge different people’s circumstances
One of the most important things you need to remember about managing remote workers is that everyone’s circumstances are different. While one employee could be living and working alone, another person may be working around childcare commitments and could require a different kind of support.
The best kind of manager is adaptable. Get to know the needs of your employees and do what you can to support them in their role even if they are not office-based. Perhaps a change in hours would suit them better. Acknowledging each circumstance will allow you to get the best out of each employee!
6. Trust your employees and avoid micromanaging people
While it is necessary to check in with everyone, it is not necessary to micromanage people. Nothing is more annoying than having someone constantly looking over your shoulder, and it can become very frustrating after a while. Trust your employees until they prove otherwise.
People who start remote jobs or request flexible working hours are productive in this type of environment, so let them work. Of course, make yourself available for any assistance they may require and keep an eye on their progress, but resist the temptation to overshoot the mark.
Managing employees always requires understanding and adaptability, which is no different when you’re working with remote employees. With trust on both sides, you’ll have a remote team that is easy to work with.
About the Author: Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.