A Full Guide to Managing Remote Employees
by YOSS Community Writer, on August 16, 2019 at 3:42 PM
Managing remote workers presents unique challenges. However, with the right approach, it isn't especially difficult and can produce great results for you and your company.
4 Biggest Myths About Remote Workers
The biggest hurdle to achieve successful remote management is to get beyond the common myths and stereotypes of remote work.
1. Remote Workers Are Unreliable and Lazy
One stereotype of a remote worker involves some kind of permanent vacation—typing on a laptop on a Caribbean beach or working sporadically between treks through the Himalayas. While this may be true of some digital nomads, most remote workers lead far more pedestrian lives.
From 2015 to 2016, TINYpulse surveyed 509 remote workers. Of them, 83% work regular hours with the remaining working random or on-call hours.
2. Remote Workers Aren't Productive
The same TINYpulse survey found that 91% of remote workers believed that they were more productive than when they work onsite. Other studies have found similar results, thereby disproving the stereotype that remote employees are unproductive.
3. There is Poor Communication With Remote Workers
Workers in different time zones can make management more challenging. However, there is no reason that there should be communication problems with remote workers. A slack message is generally just as handy as visiting a worker down the hall.
The same TINYpulse survey revealed that remote workers are generally self-motivated and independent, and that 52% communicate with their supervisors one or more times per day.
4. Remote Workers Can't Be Part of the Work Team
While it is certainly possible to relegate remote workers to a “virtual basement” where they produce but don't engage with the rest of the company, this doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, Quantum Workplace found that 62% of employees think working remotely increases their engagement by allowing them to balance work and life and by increasing trust between the employee and the company.
How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees
Remote workers represent a great opportunity, but they require just as much management as in-office workers. Even the most exceptional worker will be wasted if not properly managed.
Remote workers need to know what kind of production is expected of them so they can work as independently as possible. Of course, the exact nature of the expectations depends on the field. Remote workers do everything from answering support calls to managing teams, but like all employees, they need to know what needs to be accomplished and when.
In general, supervisors should interact with remote workers as much as they do onsite workers. The exact level of interaction depends on the job and the experience of the worker.
An experienced call-center worker may not need a lot of direct supervision, but a new software tester may need to be contacted many times per day. In general, it's a good idea to check in at least once per day.
If you have a regular office and your remote workers live nearby, it will also help to have them come in for meetings periodically, be it weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
The other side of supervision is trust. As we've discussed, remote workers are reliable and productive. Unless a problem comes up, you should give them the space they need to do their job.
Remember that remote workers are usually experienced. According to one survey, these workers have been with their current employer for more than 3 years on average—and 6% had more than 10 years.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't ask for time sheets, nor does it mean that remote employee monitoring software can't be useful. But you don't want to fall into trust issues that can stem from micromanagement.
Remote worker engagement is more important than it may at first appear. A study by Future Workplace and Virgin Pulse found that remote workers were less engaged than in-office workers, which led to higher turn-over rates.
Email and other tools (see below) make interactions between workers (remote and onsite) easier, so you should encourage this.
You can start by scheduling group meetings, which are arguably more important for remote workers. That’s because these meetings provide an opportunity for team interaction in addition to discussing specific work topics.
Unless your team is scattered all over the world, time zones shouldn't present a problem. Even teams spanning the Atlantic Ocean can schedule meetings early morning for North America and later afternoon for Europe. When even this isn't possible, you can break up teams by time zones.
Make Resources Available
One of the most frustrating things for employees is not having the resources that they need to do their jobs. Make sure that all the data and tools necessary are as easily accessible for remote workers as they are for onsite workers.
Use Remote Workforce Tools
Today, it is easier than ever to manage remote workers because of the many tools available. If you have a mixed (remote and in-office) team, you should use these tools for both groups to increase remote worker collaboration and engagement.
There are many applications that encourage team collaboration and interaction. Slack is probably the best known, but there are also other options. Microsoft Teams, for example, integrates with Office 365, which your employees may already use. There are also open-source alternatives like Zulip.
Many companies still rely on traditional word processors and share their files via Dropbox or other cloud storage providers. Increasingly, however, companies use Google Drive for their word processing and spreadsheet needs. It has enough power for most purposes, and it allows multiple people to collaborate on the same document at the same time.
Most collaboration tools include at least some kind of audio or video conferencing, but they’re not always the most useful or reliable. As a result, remote teams often use dedicated tools. Google Hangouts is commonly used for group meetings. Another popular choice is Zoom.
There are other tools that can be handy. Every Time Zone can be a great help when trying to schedule a meeting with a widely separated group. There are also general workflow tools like Asana and Trello for managing projects and tracking tasks.
Managing remote employees shouldn’t be more difficult than managing onsite employees. It's really just a matter of approach. As long as you are accommodating of their specific needs, you can seamlessly integrate remote workers into your team.
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