how to manage remote employees

If you’re managing staff members who telecommute or work in a different location than you do, you’ll need to put extra effort into making the relationship work smoothly. Here are five tips that will help.

1. Establish a clear system for communications and stick to it. If you leave it informal, regular communication is less likely to happen than with someone who’s just down the hall. For instance, you might decide that (1) you’ll have one regularly scheduled phone meeting per week; (2) you’ll proactively and regularly create opportunities for less formal interaction, since your separate locations mean those won’t pop up on their own; (3) you won’t rely on email for big-picture or complicated issues and instead will get on the phone to talk them through; and (4) the staffer will come to your headquarters for a few days at least twice a year.

2. Get aligned up-front about your expectations about the remote staffer’s accessibility. For instance, you might ask remote employees to make sure it’s easy for coworkers to reach them and to be especially responsive to calls and emails during business hours since people can’t just walk down the hall to their office.

3. Create ways for remote staff to stay in the loop. Since it can be harder for remote employees to know what’s going on in the office, pay special attention to ensuring that they’re included in communications. Make sure they hear about any significant development, as well as informal news within your team, and ensure that there’s not an information divide between those physically near you and those further away.

4. Create opportunities to interact in-person. This plays a big role in building trust and getting to know each other. And because this increased familiarity will lead to increased comfort, you’ll almost definitely find that in-person interactions lead to useful conversations that don’t happen when you’re just communicating by phone and email.

5. Find ways to see remote staff in action. In order to know what’s really going on in your remote staffer’s realm and how she operates, find ways to actually see her work in action. For instance, you might join some of her phone calls, go on site visits, or simply spend a day with her. Not only will this give you a better grasp on how her work is playing out, but she’ll probably appreciate knowing that you’ve seen her world firsthand and understand its dynamics and challenges.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase. 

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Wilton Businessman*

    I don’t want to visit my remote employees. Too many stories about logging on in various states of dress (or no dress at all).

      1. Unmana*

        Thank you! All learned through long hard years (okay, not that long or hard!) of practice. I think working remotely makes you much more independent and you need to focus on the actual work you’ve done each day rather than the number of hours you spent in office.

  2. Harry*

    I also manage a number of virtual employees across several countries / timezones. Some tips:

    1) When on the phone with an employee, focus on what is being said. Stop browsing the net or checking / reading emails when a virtual employee is speaking. Give the attention as you would face to face.

    2) During a team call, get everyone involved. Have them share something or do a round table.

    3) I go out of my way to send Christmas gifts to everyone. Its not a must and I do it out of my own pocket but it is a very nice gesture.

  3. azvlr*

    I just started a new job and Giant Corp and I am the only member of the team at my location. This article was helpful to me to know what to reasonably expect from my manager. I am happy to report that my manager already does the all of the things mentioned!

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