Managing Remote Employees: 5 Best Practices
At Rhythm Systems, some of our team works in the office, but most of us work remotely. As an office worker with the flexibility to work remotely on occasion, I can appreciate the challenge of both settings. In the office, you’ve got the drive by “Do you have a minute?” conversations and the typical water cooler chat that can be distractions, and at home, you’ve got the temptations of family members, pets, domestic work, and your favorite TV show on Netflix vying for your attention. So, which is better? As working from home (WFH) becomes more prevalent as we work to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) I thought it would be helpful to update this blog post this may be new to you, but it applies to all remote employees whether it is temporary or a more permanent situation.
One study cited in the Harvard Business Review found that "in comparison with the employees who came into the office, the at-home workers were not only happier and less likely to quit but also more productive.” The company was a call center, and they found that "people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did—meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them.” The remote workers also reported higher job satisfaction, and the company "estimated that it saved $1,900 per employee for the nine months.” Those results are pretty impressive. And, while remote work is certainly not right for every person or every role, it can be a great solution for workers looking for more flexibility and companies looking to expand their talent pool.
Here are 5 Best Practices to Effectively Manage Remote Employees:
- Choose your remote workers carefully. When hiring remote workers or considering who on your team may be able to work remotely, you have to consider more than just the requirements and skills for the job. You need to be sure to hire someone who is self-motivated, wants to work remotely, and has the skills to be successful; according to an article in Forbes, "to be effective at working remotely, employees must be proactive communicators who are adept at time management.”
- Build a culture of trust and accountability. In order to build strong working relationships, be sure to include opportunities for social bonding with remote team members - an HBR article recommends using video technology to “spark impromptu interactions” and spending time each week to “nurture familiarity” by making time for small talk as you would do in the office. Setting clear expectations for remote workers is also key; they should know exactly what they need to deliver to be successful in their role. A Job Scorecard is a helpful tool for this. Establishing trust and accountability will help workers feel confident that they can reach out for help when it is needed.
- Establish a good communication rhythm. According to an article on TimeDoctor.com, "No matter if you have a team of in-house workers, remote workers, or a mix of both, good team communication is imperative to your success." Regular check-ins are crucial for successful remote employees. As the manager, you should be proactive in setting up a communication rhythm that works for your team. Have Daily Huddles and Weekly Adjustment Meetings and use collaboration tools to stay in touch throughout the day. HBR also recommends establishing a “predictable schedule” for in person check-ins. When setting up meetings with team members in other time zones, "it’s considerate to set up the meetings on a rotating schedule so that no one team member or region is unduly burdened or disrupted.”
- Implement the right tools & systems. Just like the rest of your employees, your remote workers need to have the right tools and systems in place to be successful. Having some kind of video conferencing tool that allows you to have “face time” with remote team members can go a long way to establishing more personal relationships and feeling more connected with the team. A chat platform like Skype or Google can help you keep the lines of informal communication open with remote team members throughout the day. And, having a system like Rhythm to manage your work, track your progress toward goals and deliverables, and collaborate with the rest of the team on your top priorities will help you stay on top of everything and achieve success.
- Focus on results. Rather than the hours they are physically in the office, remote workers need to be measured based on their productivity and work product, according to Forbes. Are they meeting their goals and delivering the desired results you’ve agreed upon? It is important to recognize remote workers’ contributions so they don’t feel like they are under appreciated and so that others in the office know they are contributing to the team.
Hopefully, these tips will help you engage your remote employees and develop accountable leaders and teams. Please share any tips of your own in the comments below!
Want more information on Engaging Remote Employees that work from home?
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Editor's note: This post was originally published Oct. 17, 2017, and has been updated.