As COVID-19 continues to change the working landscape by storm, some businesses all over the world have resorted to remote or work-from-home (WFH) scheme for employees to continue operations amidst the ongoing pandemic. But even before the virus made most of us stay inside our homes, remote work has been quite a popular trend.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, remote work has grown 173% since 2005, which is 11% faster than the rest of the workforce and almost 47x faster than the self-employed population. The same study proves that as of 2018, 3.6% of the US workforce is already working from home and 80% of employees expressed their desire to work remotely at least some of the time.
So, this WFH situation may not be new to some, but there are still businesses out there that might be unfamiliar with handling remote employees. Trying to manage remote workers can be daunting at first, so here are some helpful tips that can make it easy for both managers and employees to adjust to this unfamiliar, but promising, setup:
Set clear expectations
When dealing with remote employees, you have to set clear expectations ahead so there will be less to zero confusion on both ends. Everyone has a different understanding of what doing something “well” or “quickly” means, so it’s not enough to just assign work to your employees and not explain them thoroughly. Showing detailed examples of what you expect to be done, setting deadlines or work schedules, providing guidelines, reiterating work rules, and giving clear instructions can make a huge difference when trying to manage remote workers.
In addition, make sure to always be accessible to them in case they have questions (and there will be). Aside from providing complete instructions and outlining expectations, it also helps to remind your employees about work priorities, performance goals, milestones, and more. This doesn’t only open communication lines between both parties, but it also ensures that everything is crystal clear and nothing is left in the dark.
Try not to micromanage them
When learning to manage remote workers, it might be tempting to always guide them in everything they do, to the point of micromanaging them. It could be your way of making sure that you still have control over them even though you can’t be with them physically, or it could be fear that they won’t complete their tasks or work as intended during work hours. Whatever the reason is, you have to resist micromanaging your remote employees.
“You shouldn’t have to be looking over your team’s shoulders while they’re in the office, so you shouldn’t have to do it when they’re remote, either,” said Paul Pellman, CEO of Kazoo, a computer software company in Austin, Texas, in an interview with SHRM. Instead, what you could do is schedule short, regular one-on-one meetings to keep tabs on your employees while letting them know that they’re still being managed, but not micromanaged. It keeps everything healthy, from communication lines to the actual health of the employees, who might already be burned out and fatigued due to the uncommon nature of remote work.
Trust your remote employees
In line with trying not to micromanage your remote workers, you should also avoid having fears and speculations about your employees. The best thing to do in this situation is to trust them completely and wholeheartedly.
When trying to manage remote workers, it might be hard to put your utmost trust and confidence in them since you can’t see them physically and you might be worried that they won’t be able to do their work at the same level as if they were in the office, where you can supervise them. But you can’t always talk to them during work hours or engage in a video chat all the time just to make sure that they’re completing their tasks— that will only make them unproductive and lose focus. So, the only solution is to just trust your remote employees 100%. In addition, you can set up WFH guidelines, such as a strict timeframe for responding to emails and daily reports of their completed tasks. This will put you at ease and, at the same time, gain your employees’ respect even more.
Engage them regularly; build rapport with them
When you can’t see your remote employees physically, it’s easy to forget about communicating with them except for work purposes, especially if you’re also swamped with your own tasks and processes. But when learning to manage remote workers, engaging them on a regular basis and building rapport with them are two of the most important things you should always remember and do.
Engaging them regularly doesn’t always mean constant video calls or endless messaging. You can schedule a face-to-face meeting with your remote employees once or twice a week, monthly, twice a month… it depends on you and the nature of your work— the important thing is they can hear from you regularly and vice versa. This constant interaction and engagement will make your remote workers feel included in the company, as well as foster a relationship beyond manager-employee without breaking any boundaries.
As for building rapport, you have to do this with each member of your team. Take some time between work hours to talk to them about themselves and really get to know them. It will help you understand your remote workers better and you will be more equipped to work through any problem they might have. This also builds their trust to you because they know that you’re not just their manager, but also their friend. They will be more open to you about anything, work-related or not. This bond is essential especially for companies with remote setup.
Increase recognition; celebrate success
When learning to manage remote workers, recognizing their achievements or even small wins shouldn’t be lost just because you’re not in an office setup. This is an important part of fostering a good employer-employee relationship. Being able to give effective recognition not only motivates the employee, but it also serves as a great way to teach others of behaviors they should emulate.
It should work like a domino: one employee does something right (exemplary even), you recognize his/her efforts and offer an incentive of any kind (it doesn’t have to be monetary— it could be as simple as a public acknowledgment, a digital certificate that they can print, opportunities for development, or any token of appreciation), and other employees get inspired to do their best work, hoping to be recognized as well. It’s a win-win situation for both you and your remote employees.