Five Quick Tips for Managing Your Remote Employees

One thing that can fairly be said about the Pandemic we’re all still experiencing to one degree or another is that it taught us to adapt.

Almost overnight, tens of millions of people started working from home.

Video conferencing tools saw immense surges in use and both owners and employees had to figure out new ways of doing things and figure them out quickly, at that.

Now, more than two years into the pandemic, things have improved to the point where we can take a deep breath and reflect for a bit on the lessons learned to this point.

If you’re a manager or business owner and you’re still not comfortable with the notion of managing remote employees, here are some of the best practices that have emerged:

#1 – LISTEN!

Empathy is the single biggest tool you’ve got in your managerial arsenal.  The simple truth is that working from home is hard, because it’s extremely isolated and can get lonely fast.  Some people are well suited to that environment but they are a minority, so you can bet that most of your work-from-home employees are struggling with it, at least part of the time.

Be sure to check in frequently, not to micromanage, but just to send a hello.  To find out how they’re doing and if they need anything you can provide.  This type of communication only rarely happens in most office environments but is absolutely essential where work from home employees are concerned.

The bottom line is, if you take the time to communicate (and not about deadlines or the day’s progress), your employees will tell you what they need from you.

#2 – Keep Meetings Shorter

In person meetings can sometimes run long and that’s usually okay.  Where video conferences are concerned, however, less is more.  Keep your team huddles short and tightly focused, usually on just a single topic.  Meet up, make a plan, then break the huddle and get to it.

This will probably result in a slight to moderate increase in the total number of “huddles” during a typical work week, and that’s fine.  It actually helps break up the day and that sense of isolation mentioned in the first point.

#3 – Trust the Process

Studies have shown that employee productivity actually increased when mass numbers of people started working from home.  Yes, it’s more challenging, but it’s also more flexible and gives your employees more time (no commute, for one thing).

All that to say, your employees don’t need to be micromanaged.  If you’ve given them clear instructions and a timetable, stand back and let the magic happen.  Sure, it’s okay to check in periodically, but at least half of these check ins should align with point #1.

The bottom line here is:  If your employees know what you expect of them, trust them to do it.

#4 – Bite Sized Objectives

It’s fine to have a broad, overarching goal, but when it comes to making steady progress with a team that can’t meet face to face, smaller, incremental steps just work better.  Clearly communicate the broad objective but then get down to brass tacks. 

Mary works on this piece.  Bob works on this piece.  Lance on this one.  Cross-communicate as needed and we’ll huddle up in three days (or whatever the appropriate timeframe is) and check in.

#5 – Celebrations and Recognition

Nobody wants to be invisible and working from home can easily make an employee feel like the invisible cog in the wheel.

You can fix that by starting an employee recognition program if you don’t already have one, and by making sure that the achievements of your remote employees are recognized by that program.

Even better, if an in-person recognition is out of the question, record your video conference and post it to the company’s website so that everyone can enjoy it and celebrate vicariously.

There are plenty of other things you can do as well, but if you start with these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the fine art of managing your remote employees!