Stanford University conducted a study on working from home which concluded that remote workers were more productive than workers in a traditional office setting. That same study found that there was 50% less attrition in remote workers than those who came into the office.
In recent years, few trends have become as popular in the workplace as remote work. In their annual workplace survey, the Internal Workplace Group found that 80% of those surveyed would turn down a job offer that didn’t offer flexible working. Remote work offers countless benefits to employees and employers alike, such as improved work/life balance, increased productivity, or even more diverse teams, thanks to the support for international workers telecommuting from around the world. However, it does present a new set of challenges that managers and employees need to navigate.
To ensure remote work is beneficial, it’s imperative that managers and business owners do their best to manage remote employees effectively and ensure they feel supported and valued. Below, we’ll detail the best ways to achieve that.
1. Outline Your Expectations
As with any position, it’s important to explain your expectations to remote employees very clearly. Let them know what you need from them in order for this arrangement to work well, including productivity goals and communication needs. Doing so will set you both up to succeed.
Having a clear outline of the expectations you have for your employees will also help make them more productive. These guidelines serve as an understanding of how your employee’s efforts will be evaluated, allowing them the opportunity to do their best work. Productivity can be measured in a multitude of ways, from time spent on a project to their amount of client interactions. Whichever method you choose, ensure that your employees have a thorough understanding of it.
2. Communicate Frequently
Communicate with all of your remote employees frequently — at least once per day. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long video conference or lengthy email; a simple text or instant message will suffice.
Similarly, individual teams can also establish their own communicative norms. Whether it’s a daily morning meeting on Slack or an afternoon Zoom call to prep for a meeting, having a designated communication process in place will allow for more productive operations overall.
Plus, strong communication can help build relationships. It allows your employees to feel like they can come to you with any questions or issues that may arise during a typical workday.
3. Be Available
A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers often felt “left out” or “shunned” when it came to office politics. To prevent this, it’s important to be available for open communication, both as a boss and an employee.
Employees should never feel a sense that they don’t belong. Being available is especially important for managers and those in the C-suite of a company. Even if your schedule is busy, always make yourself available to your remote employees. In-house workers can stop by your desk or see you in the breakroom, but remote workers don’t have that luxury.
Regardless of your status in the company, make sure others know they can always reach you, whether it’s through chat, email, call, or text. You can also specify a time, like Mondays from 10 a.m. until noon, where employees know that you’ll be available to chat.
4. Focus on Goals
As a boss, it’s important that your goals, and the personal and professional goals of your employees, ultimately align with the goals of the company. Take time to get to know what your employees enjoy doing outside of work. Establishing a connection with your employees about their passions, be they personal or professional, will inspire them to be better workers.
Additionally, you don’t want your team to feel like you don’t trust them or that you’re micromanaging them. It’s difficult to know how remote employees spend their time without erring on the side of micro-management. Ask yourself, “Are they reaching their expected goals and doing good work?” If so, focus on their accomplishments instead of worrying about how they spend each minute of each day. Doing so will allow your employees to feel like they have the autonomy to do their best work.
5. Embrace Technology
There’s an abundance of technology that you can use to facilitate remote work and communication with remote employees. Explore different technologies and use them to your advantage to make work better for your remote employees.
Programs like Slack, Asana, and Trello are great for communication and project management, but do some research to find the software that’s right for you and your employees. Additionally, be sure to use technology to keep your information secured, particularly when working with employees abroad. Coordinating security and support solutions through remote monitoring and management (RMM) software can ensure that no matter where team members work, they have access to the same security, troubleshooting, and update schedule as everyone else in the company.
6. Use Reliable Tools
In a similar vein, it’s important to use essential tools and technology that you can trust. Without them, it’s all but impossible for remote employees to do their jobs.
Companies with remote workers also need to consider the importance of cybersecurity. In most cases, a secure VPN will be enough, but it really depends on the data your company transmits on a daily basis. A professional services automation solution can be highly effective for IT specialists who need to manage, support, and help remote employees, especially as part of their managed services provider (MSP) relationship with clients or organizations.
7. Make Meetings Accessible
Sometimes, holding a quick meeting can resolve an issue much faster than sending an email and waiting for a reply. The HBR study on shunned employees, cited above, found that “one in four respondents said managers who insisted on some face time with remote employees were more successful.”
As you would with your in-house staff, make open-door meetings accessible to remote employees. Employees should always feel welcome to reach out to you, whether it’s through call or video. Make it easy for employees to schedule appointments by using software like Calendly. It allows employees to view your schedule and choose a time to chat.
8. Build Remote Work Into Your Culture
Try to build remote work into your company or team culture. Go out of your way to include remote workers on calls or video chats, even if it’s only a quick one. Create an online culture, whether it’s a dedicated Slack channel or a private Facebook group, where employees can go to connect outside of work.
Most importantly, live the values you established with your employees every single day. Remote workers can be just as interactive and collaborative as in-office employees if the right culture is developed. If it’s simply a part of your work life, it will feel natural and normal for everyone else.
9. Be Inclusive
Remember that your remote employees aren’t an afterthought. This is especially important if your entire team isn’t distributed. When planning company events or giving out company gear, always be inclusive of your remote employees and plan for them ahead of time.
To ensure remote employees don’t miss the mark on important projects, document everything in writing. Upload important information to shared folders that are accessible at any time. Being as inclusive as possible will help your remote workers feel like they’re part of something and ultimately help motivate your employees to want to continue working for you.
10. Trust Remote Employees
You can’t have a good relationship without trust. By setting clear and attainable goals, making yourself available, and providing regular feedback to your remote employees, you’ll be able to establish a trusting professional relationship.
While you have to trust your instincts if something seems strange or wrong, you also have to trust your remote employees. You have to trust that they’re working hard, and will reach out for help if and when they need it. Moreover, you need to ensure they have the resources to protect their hardware, and any sensitive or proprietary data they handle. Integrating endpoint security support with your IT management system may be essential to having employees work remotely without introducing vulnerabilities. For employees working abroad, this may need to be blended with a VPN and clear guidelines for leveraging public Wi-Fi for work tasks to further protect sensitive data.
Upwork estimates that by 2028, 73% of all teams will have remote workers. Being prepared to manage employees working outside the office will help promote success from everybody involved.