Managing Remote Employees

I am sitting on my deck, working in my outdoor office in my comfortable chair with the sun beating down on me. My laptop is open in front of me as I type this, trying to see a faded sun-drenched screen – oops, got distracted – a humming bird just whizzed by me…okay, what was I doing?

Some may think being remote is an enviable position. The reality is that self-micro management is critical for it to truly work, which is not entirely easy. Being surrounded by peers and being able to have quick access to management when needed is also missed at times.

Home-based or remotely managed employment is increasing in Canada. As such, there is a need for leaders to manage performance effectively, but how?

First, a reality check: working remotely has many proven benefits like increased morale, happiness, productivity and cost efficiency. A recent Forbes study stated that 91% of those who work out of home feel they get more done. But the transition can be difficult for some employees as they are no longer physically part of the office team.

Successful work-from-home models require give and take on both the parts of leaders as well as employees.  As a leader, here are five tips to set your employees up for success.

1. Set Clear Expectations: Develop and document clear employee expectations so that they know what needs to be delivered. What does success look like for them and how do they contribute to organizational goals?

2. Monitor and Coach: Set up calls on a regular basis to discuss current challenges and opportunities. Like any employee, they need to be engaged and as they are remote, it is best to schedule recurring meetings to check in. Coaching in the moment can work but is more difficult due to the proximity. Ensure you have the type of employee relationship that optimizes transparency and support.

3. Leverage Technology: Use SKYPE, FaceTime, or any other video-based tools to communicate back and forth when required. Working remotely can get lonely and seeing a face helps in building engagement and the feeling of “Team”. Ensure email systems such as Microsoft Outlook are used effectively to help employees manage their time and priorities well.

4. Set Boundaries: Dialogue and document how the employee wishes to be supported by you. Make sure that they also follow existing policies and procedures and provide immediate feedback when they don’t as internal stakeholders may be impacted.

5. Let Go: Happy, less stressed employees get their work done. At the ‘office’, there are likely more distractions, longer conversations and more meetings. Trust that clear expectations set will be met and they will do it.

In leveraging these techniques, employees will know how they fit into the bigger picture and how to work best with the pieces they are connected to.

Kwela’s Time Management workshop offers tools and techniques to optimize personal time management, and in our Coaching for Performance workshop, ways on managing employees effectively. The only difference with remote workers is that we need to be okay with the divide and believe in their commitment to results.

Glen Sollors
Senior Consultant