4 Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

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As most of us have transitioned to working remotely, I wrote this article to give you some tips on how to deal with some of the challenges that come with having remote employees.  I hope you find this information valuable and please feel free to share with anyone you know that might benefit from reading this.

Prior to the COVID-19 chaos and California’s Shelter-in-Place order, telecommuting was already rapidly becoming one of the most attractive benefits a company can offer. It is increasing becoming a way for companies to try and improve work-life balance.

It’s easy to see why flexible work options have steadily gained popularity among employers and employees in recent years. Companies with a mobile workforce can save money on office space and tech equipment while increasing their overall productivity. Meanwhile, remote workers can enjoy the freedom to work from anywhere they choose, reduce time and money spent on transportation, and find a greater sense of work-life balance.

Managing remote employees comes with a set of unique challenges, and overcoming them should be a top priority for many employers. Here are four big challenges employers should address.

  1. Communication

As a business owner or manager, it’s your job to keep all your employees informed. While it’s simple to effectively communicate with staff members you see face-to-face, desk-less employees must rely on technology, so you can’t let remote team members become “out of sight, out of mind.”

It’s also harder for remote employees to learn something such as a new procedure because they aren’t able to learn by watching in person. I highly recommend documenting all procedures and writing down as much as you can.

The best way to communicate with remote employees is through technology. There are many apps as well as just simple text messaging, emails and phone calls to keep the lines of communication open.

In addition to having reliable communication solutions, it’s important to make sure that your workers know when and how to reach one another. Establishing core hours that all team members will be online and available, and commit to responding to each other within a set period. Collaboration tools such as shared storage and cloud-based project management software can also help a scattered team work together efficiently.

  1. Tracking productivity

When you can’t physically see your employees every day, it can be difficult to track the amount of work they complete daily. While many telecommuters are motivated self-starters, some will take advantage of the fact that there’s no boss over their shoulder.

Track a remote worker’s productivity the same as you would with the rest of your team, including employees who work in the office.

Whether it is a remote employee or an employee that works in the office, it’s essential to establish metrics and goals. Judge someone’s effectiveness by their output, not by how long they’re at their desk or how hard it looks like they’re working.

  1. Employee trust

While you should check in and make sure your employees are doing what they’re supposed to, a successful flexible work arrangement ultimately comes down to trust.

Trust that your workers are doing what you pay them to do, even if you’re not always there to check in. While many of the personality traits and behaviors required for telecommuting can be vetted during the hiring process, you never really know if their personality is a good teleworking fit until someone comes on permanently. Trust is earned, and it’s earned over time and that street runs both ways.

If you’re going to be an effective virtual manager, your team needs to trust in you as well. Let them know that you’re there to help them solve problems, break up workflow obstacles and give direction as needed.

  1. A unified company culture

Mobile workers often say that they love the flexibility of their jobs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they enjoy missing out on being part of office culture. If possible, try to have your remote employees plan a day to come into the office every once in a while. This will have to wait until we are over the hump of COVID-19 of course, but it is a good time to start thinking ahead and plan.

If your team can’t coordinate a quarterly in-person meeting, the next best thing is frequent virtual meetings so everyone feels connected.

Employees collaborate best when they have personal connections with each other. To maintain this connection while working remotely, small teams should have a short daily conference call to discuss hot topics and unanswered questions, and use video chat for team meetings.