Remote work offers a number of advantages for employers and employees alike, including cutting down on employee commute time, saving on office space expense, and enabling work to get done wherever an employee may be. However, there are also drawbacks to remote work which can cause anticipated productivity gains from the practice to fall short of expectations. These include:
- Lack of oversight resulting in reduced remote worker productivity
- Difficulty with communication due to a lack of face-to-face contact
- Difficulty in working together as a team
- Distracted working behavior due to suboptimal working conditions
The tips outlined below are designed to help you overcome these and other potential pitfalls of managing remote employees.
It takes more effort, generally speaking, to get remote workers to learn and buy-in to a company’s corporate culture. On-premises employees often naturally pick up your company’s goals, objectives, and way of doing business by social interaction as much as by reading company manuals and guidebooks. Given that remote workers aren’t able to take advantage of this effect, you should go out of your way to make sure that remote employees are kept informed of the company’s objectives and expectations.
Transparency is crucial for accomplishing this. Being transparent means informing workers about not only the company’s goals, but also the progress the company is making to achieve them and what it means to the company (and its employees) to achieve those goals. In other words, what success looks like. Being transparent about an employee’s role in achieving company objectives helps generate buy-in and improves overall worker productivity.
Written documentation is key to fostering transparency by providing material employees can search through for information regarding company policies and procedures at a time of their choosing. Remote workers should be provided with access to any and all general information that they need to function on a team.
Lack of access to this type of information, or selective disclosure of it, can lead to suboptimal results or even failure to achieve team objectives. Sharing information of this type with team members has been made easier by the development of collaboration tools which facilitate communicating and sharing information.
One such tool is Slack, which allows you to make updated data relating to your team’s progress available to all team members in a format where they can communicate with you and others about the project. This type of transparency helps you keep everyone on the same page about a project’s goals and progress.
Track Performance and Stress Accountability
Stressing accountability is a must when it comes to getting the most out of remote employees. While remote work offers cost savings, it also makes it more difficult to determine how much work an employee has completed. To ensure that remote employees aren’t using the lack of direct supervision to slack off, perform rigorous tracking of their productivity. A variety of tools can assist you in this process by logging hours worked and progress made on specific tasks.
Inform remote employees that their performance will be tracked. This lets them know that they will be held accountable for working productively. This ties into the idea of using transparency to help promote beneficial outcomes. If employees understand that working remotely does not imply any lack of accountability when it comes to what is expected of them, you improve your ability to maximize the value of using remote workers.
Remote workers can’t chat over coffee in the employee lounge or walk across the floor to ask a colleague a question. This makes it incumbent on you as the manager to take steps to make sure that communication issues don’t prevent your remote team members from being as productive as possible. Taking steps to provide a communications structure that helps to avoid miscommunication is highly recommended.
In an on-premises scenario, miscommunication can often be smoothed over by face-to-face contact. This is not the case when it comes to remote teams, so paying careful attention to the communication channels and procedures used for remote team communication is necessary to reduce the chances of encountering problems of this type.
To address communications issues, you can take the following steps:
- Make yourself as available as possible to talk with your team members if they should have any questions about a project or task
- Emphasize that team members should err on the side of over-communicating
- If team members have any questions or comments about a project or policy, encourage them to call, email, or message someone on the team to seek clarification
There are a variety of communications apps that can be helpful when it comes to effectively managing remote employees. Video conferencing apps such as Skype allow you to speak face to face with distant employees, while teamwork management apps make it easy to message and collaborate with remote employees. Make sure to clearly specify to your team which communications tools should be used and how they should be used.
Host Meetings on a Regular Basis
When holding remote meetings, make them subject to the same preparations and procedures as meetings that take place in person. Work up an agenda with action items and prepare any slides or videos necessary for the presentation. Visual images can help keep a remote audience engaged, so try to include at least some visuals in your meetings when possible. Given their nature, remote meetings should be short and to the point. Keep attendees engaged so their attention doesn’t wander.
These meetings should be held on a regular basis to ensure that remote workers feel that they are connected to their colleagues and valued by their employer. In addition to a functional component, such meetings also have the social purpose of increasing team member buy-in. Taking the time to speak with team members voice-to-voice or face-to-face, either via voice or video conference calls or having them meet on-premises from time to time, is essential for building a strong bond among the team.
Help Remote Workers Be Productive
Working remotely, for all its advantages, can present the opportunity for workers to pick up some unproductive habits. These can take a variety of forms, including:
- Unproductive multi-tasking. For instance, watching TV while working.
- Atrophied social skills due to infrequent human interaction
- Working remotely can blur the distinction between a worker’s home and work life, leading to workaholism, which can hurt an employee’s productivity in the long-term.
To help remote workers overcome these and other challenges of distance working, there are a variety of steps you can take. One of these is emphasizing positive work habits by stressing the need to take time to attend to one’s physical and mental health.
This could include physical work-outs, eating healthy, taking mental breaks, practicing yoga, meditation, or some other relaxation or contemplation technique that helps keep an individual focused and happy. Different approaches will be appropriate for different people, of course, but, in general, promoting a holistic view to work-life balance among your team members can pay dividends by enhancing remote worker productivity.
Another aspect of remote work worthy of focus is the work environment. Remote workers who work mainly at home may find that they must deal with a plethora of distractions, including spouses, significant others, kids, roommates, television, neighbors, and the list goes on. It can be helpful to advise workers in such a situation to establish an alternate work site so they can avoid facing these distractions on a continual basis. Such sites could take the form of a quiet coffee shop, a local workspace colocation facility, or some other location where they can get away from the home environment to avoid distractions from time to time.
When it comes to fostering social interaction, holding frequent meetings, even if they are short ones, offers remote workers the chance to establish a social bond with their coworkers and avoid feeling isolated by their work. In terms of procrastination, using productivity tools can cut down on this tendency and help workers be productive by providing them with reminders of deadlines and milestones relating to important tasks.
Nuvro is a robust online project management tool that helps you manage your entire team whether they're across the room or on the other side of the world. With Nuvro you can gain control and peace of mind over all of your projects, tasks, team members, workload and everything else important to your company. In addition to the project, task and collaboration features found in most PM tools, Nuvro also provides a company dashboard, a team dashboard, team member performance reviews, secure document management, an internal alternative to email and more. Nuvro is perfect for busy teams looking to accomplish more. Learn More…