Managing employees is not a simple thing and if you are talking about managing remote employees, some additional nuances can make it tricky. But get those things right and adding one remote worker or a whole team of them will be one of the best hiring decisions you’ve ever made.
Whether you are a manager or business owner, here is our master list of tips to implement when managing remote employees.
First, Hire The Right People
When you hire the right remote employees, managing remotely doesn’t need to be tough.
Hire people that you can trust, hire self-motivated people, hire people who value freedom, hire people who take responsibility, hire positive people, and hire team players.
The opposite can be true when it comes to leading a remote team. Ineffective team members can affect the whole group. They may not follow the company’s processes or values, possess a strong work ethic, or be less skilled than they first appeared.
The entire team can be negatively affected by a weak link, regardless of its cause.
That’s just one of the reasons why you need to hire the right people. But how do you when you can’t meet them face-to-face?
You won’t be familiar with an employee’s previous employers or schools when you hire remotely.
Instead, figure out what traits are most important to you as a manager for the position, and find a way to let your candidate show you who they are. That could be done in interview questions or by paying them to do a bit of work as a test project for you.
Onboarding: Optimize It
It’s challenging enough to onboard local staff, but it’s even harder when people are remote.
To keep our employees productive and retain them, we’re constantly improving our onboarding processes.
Three of our top tips for optimizing your onboarding process:
- Have all their tech and accounts set up before their first day
- If they have coworkers, schedule time for them to interact one-on-one with their teammates over the first couple of days
- Start with small/easy-win projects
There are several other things you can do that we cover in our article ((tips for onboarding your new remote employees.))
Establish Clear KPIs, Objectives, Or Goals
To achieve success, you must communicate clearly from the beginning what your expectations of your team are.
You must help them prioritize the right tasks and stay focused on what you want them to deliver in very specific terms.
We’ll talk about other expectations later, but stress that these work output measures are all that matter and are how you, and others in the company, will know they are really bringing value.
Employees working remotely need to understand how they contribute to a company to be fulfilled long-term.
You should also set clear and achievable short-term goals for all your employees, not just the remote ones so that there is no confusion regarding deadlines and deliverables.
Make sure that your goals are well-defined, specific, and measurable when communicating your goals to your team. Clarity is extremely important.
Keep your focus on the outputs of your new employees and less on visible activity or the hours they work.
Make Additional Expectations Clear
Your expectations will provide your employees with parameters to work within. They are not the same as the key performance indicators or goals addressed above.
As your team grows, you should ensure that they are trained on the following common expectations.
- Communication channels and which ones are acceptable for various topics
- Frequency and flow of team meetings
- Nuances of the team, like collaboration style, independence level, autonomy, tool preferences, history, etc.
- Also, the general work expectations regarding work hours, weekly meetings, team or company rituals, and protocols with emergencies
In this case, the goal is to assist them rather than micromanage their work.
For them to succeed in their new position, you need to make reasonable efforts to make sure they succeed after they have been hired. Being thorough and even over-communicating all expectations will help you do that.
The employee’s work style is less relevant as long as they get the job done properly and on time.
Set deadlines, ask remote employees to update you on the progress of tasks or projects frequently, and/or use time-tracking apps to monitor the progress of your remote employees.
Now, at times remote employees may take advantage of their autonomy by wasting time and neglecting their workload. Identifying this behavior quickly and addressing it is crucial before it affects team productivity because some employees lack the self-discipline required to work remotely.
Focusing on those KPIs as mentioned earlier is a great objective tool you can use to judge whether or not to mention your observations or correct the behavior.
Set an expectation that you expect them to be working for you during work hours and that if they don’t have enough work to fill their time (or too much work to do) that they will tell you so you can adjust that workload or priorities for them.
You will need to be approachable for them to feel comfortable doing that though. Keep that in mind and always look for ways to remain approachable.
Make Team Members Aware Of The Company’s Values
You are responsible for helping remote employees understand and feel connected to the company’s values and mission.
And as stated above, you can’t start to do this early enough. Even in the hiring process, you can focus on bringing in new employees based on those values to ensure new hires align well with your company and the work they will be doing.
Encourage Employees To Chase Their Personal Goals
If your employees have the necessary tools, they can work anywhere in the world, which is one of the significant advantages of remote work. Encourage your employees to travel a little and you will create fierce loyalty to you and the company.
Trust us, this will have a positive effect on engagement, job satisfaction, and loyalty.
Providing The Right Tools Is Essential
Utilize technology to facilitate collaboration, engagement, and the sharing of information between employees. Make sure they have access to the systems, training, and information they need to do their jobs.
We use Volley, Loom, Slack, Google Workspace, and Figma for communication with our teams.
You might not need that many, or you might think that’s a pretty short list compared to yours.
These days you can use online apps and products in every part of your business. LastPass, for example, gives you access to any program you can log in to online for your business without sharing your login credentials.
It’s perfect for remote employees because you can give them access to any account and not have to hand them the actual login credentials to the account.
Then, worst-case scenario, if someone were to go rogue, you could just eliminate their access from LastPass and not have to change all of your passwords in each of the programs.
We’ve never had to do that, but it’s good to know it’s possible in case anything were to happen.
Bottom Line: Make sure your employees have access to technology that allows them to collaborate effectively with customers, vendors, and colleagues.
Communication Strategies Need To Be Adjusted
It’s crucial to have good communication when you’re working with remote employees. Failure to communicate and lack of information are two of the most common problems among remote workers. That’s why managers usually need to adapt their communication strategies as they lead a remote team.
Constantly promoting two-way dialog is the most important thing you can do here! And you can’t over-communicate with your team. If you start to think you’re communicating too much with your team you’re probably doing it just right.
With remote workers, you need to communicate more frequently! Even just touching base from time to time is extremely important. Combine those with formal meetings as well.
The Water Cooler
The loss of “water cooler” moments is one of the most common arguments against remote employment.
You don’t have to lose those moments.
The lack of face-to-face interaction can be compensated for by using other communication channels. Unofficial in-office chats can spark lots of productive discussions.
Virtual water cooler moments can be facilitated too. You just need to be a little more proactive, especially with more introverted staff.
I have had success in this using Slack. I always create a ‘random’ or ‘outside work’ slack channel to give people a place to post things they find interesting to them or pictures from their weekend adventures.
I have also created an ‘ideation’ channel for people to put interesting ideas that they come across in their daily consumption of job-related media. Those ideas have spawned great conversations and even new features and campaigns.
Many communication cues aren’t verbal. For instance, tone and hand gestures, without which miscommunication can occur very easily. This is particularly true when providing constructive feedback.
If you feel to, encourage the use of gifs and emojis in addition to the written word to communicate some of those lost cues or signals.
The use of instant messaging apps has replaced email for many people when it comes to more official correspondence.
If you ever need a quick follow-up, daily check-in, or simple question answered, instant messaging or even audio and video conferencing features in your current apps are a great option as well.
Get To The Point Quickly And Directly
As soon as you have a doubt or concern about a project with your remote team, or you aren’t getting the response you expected, be direct and address it immediately.
It’s usually something you thought you communicated well but didn’t, or thought would be obvious but it isn’t.
It is possible to tell a lot about the energy level and motivation of your remote team members by how they interact with other members.
Consider getting additional perspectives on how your remote workers are doing by speaking with coworkers who regularly collaborate with them.
Be clear about what your rules and expectations are when you introduce them to the team. The use of vague terms such as “fast” or “adequately” is likely to lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
Be aware of how you communicate expectations to minimize misunderstandings.
Make Sure Your Communication Practices Are Documented
Documenting your communication processes is another important step in communicating expectations to remote employees so they have something to refer to.
Provide details about when you expect a response to a message or email, for instance, when a quick message or email will suffice.
Be Sure To Check In Often
In the case of employees working from different time zones, they may feel that they are disturbing you by contacting you outside of scheduled meeting times.
Ensure your employees are aware that there’s no such thing as too much communication and set up an “open door” policy for both remote and non-remote employees.
In some way shape or form, engage directly with remote employees at least once per day. If you don’t, especially at the beginning of your work relationship, they will feel out of the loop and disengaged, causing poor performance and turnover.
You can and should help each team member feel valued and included through consistent interaction with the rest of the team, whether they work remotely or not.
Respect And Embrace Cultural Differences
Being culturally sensitive means you’ll need to be aware of cultural tendencies that may manifest in your employees’ communication styles or priorities, holidays, expectations, politics, punctuality, and many other things.
It is extremely helpful if you are approachable. If your remote employees feel they can talk to you and feel you will be honest with them and have their best interests at heart they will work hard for you.
Build In Continuous Feedback Loops
To give your remote employees both formal and informal feedback, you need to make sure you provide them with the opportunity to interact with you in lots of different ways.
They may also feel apprehensive about their ability to meet the standard because they haven’t had the chance to see how others in the company do it.
New remote employees will not know many things that you consider basic information about your company, the department’s role in the company, your instructions, your expectations, communication flows, etc.
Therefore providing feedback should be done intentionally and ongoing.
Constantly Seek Feedback
It’s important not only to provide feedback but also to ask for it. It is especially important if this is your first hire for a remote position.
You should establish a regular schedule for asking for feedback so people know when they can offer suggestions. Error on the side of asking too much as you first bring them on. You might think you are asking a lot, but they will appreciate it!
Encourage Communication Among Team Members
Consider ways to encourage team members to communicate more about projects and ideas. Provide opportunities for collaboration by arranging meetings when team members can collaborate.
You might even pair people up to work on projects that normally one person is responsible for just so they can interact and both contribute together on it.
With a little intentional connection among team members, you will get the best results and social isolation won’t be a problem.
Implement Remote Team-Building Activities
You can hold virtual team-building activities with your remote team in much the same way as you can hold virtual meetings.
You can even get the team to come up with ideas for these activities!
That could be your first one. Done.
Tours of remote working locations when someone is in a new location is one of our favorites.
Keep Track Of Progress – Use A Good Project Management Tool
You must use a project management tool if you aren’t already. And with remote workers, you don’t have much of a choice.
This allows all members of a team to know where a project stands, and to hold those responsible for slowing down the process accountable.
Rather than having conversations in emails or chat apps, most project management tools allow them to happen within projects.
By using the tool, anyone can follow conversations and ask questions that have already been answered, reducing the time spent searching for answers.
Project management tools facilitate the organization of projects, tasks, and to-do lists among employees.
The progress of each project can be seen at a glance, making it easier to identify employees or teams in need of assistance.
Make Time For One-on-One Meetings Or Phone Calls
Remote team members benefit greatly from conference calls, but it’s also critical to schedule some one-on-one time with them.
Employee engagement declines during large virtual meetings as employees become fatigued from video presentations. Some people don’t feel comfortable discussing their ideas in a large group setting.
Your employees should have regular meetings with you. Here are some topics you can discuss:
- Stay up-to-date on projects and tasks
- Constructive and positive feedback for them and you
- Ask about challenges that need to be addressed
- Providing mentoring
- Make sure they are happy and healthy
One-on-one meetings give all your employees a time and place they can count on to air concerns, ask questions, and discuss topics that are important to them.
Use the meeting to talk about small talk if there’s nothing serious to discuss. That’s really great for building rapport.
Take Team Meetings Seriously
Even if your employees don’t interact very often, bring them together regularly to discuss a variety of things from strategy to execution to problem-solving.
It will make them feel like they are part of the same team and objectives if they are dependent on each other to get things done.
Come prepared. Give them a glimpse of what is happening in other places in the company. It will help them feel more connected to the company and you.
Provide Structure And Stability
Creating a rhythm within your team is a great way to mitigate feelings of isolation and its effect on any employee, especially remote ones. Workplace productivity depends on predictability and structure.
Employees should understand their place in the process by knowing what different people are doing and having a clear schedule for meetings, calls, and deadlines.
Make sure that it’s not only inconvenient for the one remote employee working in a different time zone when you create your team calendar.
Having meetings too early or too late will wear on your employees, even if it only affects one remote worker.
Consider Time Zones
This should happen before you hire them.
One of the reasons employers love using HireMango and employing people from Africa is the closeness of the time zones to their own. Remote workers from other popular countries for hiring remote talent can be as much as 12 hours ahead or behind, and it can be really hard to find good times for calls or meetings.
When working with people from all over the world, it’s important to consider time zones.
It goes without saying, but if you need to go to a large group meeting, try to find a time when everyone is available.
To ensure that your remote employees can participate in the meeting, schedule the meeting ahead of time if you can’t fit everyone’s time zone into the meeting.
Help Your Workers Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
When you have remote employees, setting boundaries is one of the biggest challenges. Even if they don’t clock in, remote workers find it hard to disconnect from work when they’re at home.
Consider respecting your employees’ working hours, and not sending emails or messages when they’re off-duty. Most email and messaging systems also allow you to schedule your messages and you can have them automatically sent during their work hours.
Google, Slack, and text messages all have that functionality.
Employees with flexible hours might find this more challenging, but if everyone knows each other’s schedules, they can schedule emails and instant messages to prevent disrupting each other’s personal lives.
Another way to support them and show them that work-life balance is important to you will present itself the first time they come to you with a family emergency or a routine medical or dental need.
Let them know it is just fine for them to take care of it and not to worry about work. Take care of the emergency first and then get the work done.
Make An Effort To Get To Know More About Their Life
If you show them that you care about their life as well, they will be more likely to take care of their responsibilities and stay loyal employees.
Some countries Like the U.S. are very work-centric and separate work life and personal life. As an employer of remote workers, you might do the same very easily. Other countries aren’t as much that way.
As you ask them about their lives on a day-to-day basis, they will appreciate it. The fact that you are patient with them if they need a bit more time to sort something personal out.
But you need to be able to trust them and have the other pieces we have been talking about in place and functioning well to be flexible like that.
Make Sure They Know You Trust Them
Remote work setups can be extremely difficult to manage if you can’t trust your employees.
And nobody wants to micromanage or be micromanaged. Additionally, research shows that it can decrease work satisfaction and increases turnover.
With trust comes flexibility which is essential in any successful remote working relationship. It gives your employees the space to figure out how they’re going to meet their goals. Who knows, they may come up with something innovative!
Another thing to look for in the interviewing process is if they are self-starters. Their intrinsic motivation to get the job done even if they aren’t being supervised will help you trust them, guaranteed!
And then you should tell them things like, “I trust you will make the best decision with that…” or “What would you suggest we do here?” And then guide the team to follow their good suggestions.
In those ways, you will instill in them a feeling of being trusted and valued.
Celebrate Your Employees’ Accomplishments, Both Personal And Professional
You can show your employees that your company values them by celebrating special occasions, milestones, and victories with them.
Doing this goes a long way for them. Have you ever had someone do that for you? How did that make you feel? It really stood out, right?
Managing remote employees requires a little extra effort, but these ideas will make them feel more appreciated:
- Food can be sent as a gift
- Publicly acknowledge their accomplishments by sending a group email or a message to the whole team
- Celebrate birthdays by announcing them
- Gifts can be sent to the celebrant as a token of your appreciation
Providing recognition is another excellent way to promote good practices in a remote setting.
Taking the time to recognize your employees for a job well done goes a long way, even if they didn’t do the whole thing without flaw. It’s worth Identifying the things they did well and calling attention to them.
Provide Team Members With The Opportunity To Contribute Ideas
I mentioned it above, and there’s no dispute that you have to establish procedures and expectations for your remote team members.
If you did your job well and hired the right person for the job, you can rest assured they know how to get the job done best.
So get their input into how to go about doing the things you have asked of them. Give them responsibilities, not tasks.
I have even had great success leaving it up to my teams, after giving them their KPIs and objectives, to choose their own ways to get it done.
It works wonders and then they are more bought into what needs to happen because they have come up with it.
Learn To Be Flexible
People enjoy working remotely for many reasons. One of the greatest advantages is the flexibility it provides.
When you have an employee who would like to run errands at 4 pm or do homework with their children for an hour after school, see if you can just make it work.
Be prepared to be flexible. It will pay you back many times over.
You have an opportunity to be flexible as the manager.
There may not be an office environment for them to work in. While some remote workers do have an office environment, many do not. Their lives are happening all around them.
Does it matter if it gets handed in an hour or two later? If you can accommodate them, they will be loyal and work hard for you for years to come. It’s a win/win.
Prepare Yourself For Technical Difficulties
Remote teams are typically spread out, which means they will need special arrangements to deal with technical challenges.
There will be times, and they won’t be the most convenient when a computer crashes or the internet doesn’t work as it should. Know that it’s going to happen and prepare now to remain calm and look for ways to be flexible or to solve the problem.
When a team member’s tasks cannot be accomplished due to technical difficulties, ask yourself if it’s something that can be waited on, or do you need a way to get it done asap to not delay the team?
To resolve technical issues, team members may need to identify alternate service providers nearby, or go borrow a computer from a friend.
One of the great things about hiring in Africa is that most employees have good reliable internet. The ones that don’t are typically happy to talk about it with you upfront.
Just know you will run into a tech issue at some point and know it isn’t the end of the world.
That’s “Tips for Managing Remote Employees”
Employers must deal with unique circumstances when managing remote workers since they are not present in a physical office. However, they can overcome these challenges with a well-developed plan and effective communication.
But when those are done well, and sometimes when they aren’t, hiring remote staff can be very rewarding and a brilliant business decision.
We hope you found these ideas useful as you hire your next remote employee.
Find your next great hire below.