Managing Remote Employees: The Ultimate Guide [2021 Update]

Managing Remote Employees: The Ultimate Guide [2021 Update]

Heather Harper

This is our ultimate guide to managing remote teams in 2021. Explore the different chapters to help you understand each of the essential areas to focus on.

When it comes to remote working, standard management strategies don’t work, but the idea of working from home has become relatively mainstream in the past few years.

With the recent trend of fully remote companies, managers are rewriting the rule book for remote team members. So, what are some new ways of managing remote employees?

These tips & best practices will give you the right tools whether it's your first time doing remote employee engagement or 100th.

1. Clear Deliverables

Remote work is a largely independent process. There are no meetings or progress reports. For the most part, your workers are on their own. This strategy has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it has shown drastic increases in efficiency and productivity. But, on the other, things can get lost in transit, and there’s more room for confusion.

The best way to manage the issue is by clearly stating your deliverables for a task. That way, your employees know what you want and can work through your list. This removes the risk of a project going off track.

2. Communication Platforms

Since office meetings are not an option, just using email won’t cut it. You’ll need to introduce your employees to other platforms so you can keep track of the overall program. You can use apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams. It also helps to have regular video check-ins through Zoom or Google Meets.

While you shouldn’t burden your workers with too many group sessions having a weekly or bimonthly check-in helps company direction and team morale. This is especially true if you’re working on projects that require members to work together. However, if your employees are on different schedules or in different time zones, you should take that into account. Try dividing them into smaller groups, so everyone gets a chance to speak.

3. Emotional Needs

The office buzz word for the past few years has been emotional intelligence, and for a good reason. As a manager or boss, you need to have people management skills. Nowhere is this more important than in remote working. Anxiety and stress are common problems among people who spend most of their time working from home.

Part of managing remote employees is being sensitive to their needs, whether that’s extending a deadline or simply listening to their concerns. Offering these small allowances will benefit your company overall. In fact, this leeway translates directly into a higher quality of work, company loyalty, and employee motivation.

We've published a great series of guides that you'll find very useful for coming up with ideas to engage a remote team:

4. Results Over Process

When it comes to remote working, you can’t focus on the process too much. Understand that your employees have a lot going on at home. So, it’s unlikely they’ll be working on a 9 to 5 schedule or even consistently for many hours. Most at-home employees work in shorter intervals spaced out over the day. That’s why it’s not a good idea to set a system that requires progress reports or updates on a preset schedule.

Remote working is a format that depends on employee independence and doesn’t leave room for continuous oversight. If your current business model relies on micromanagement, then you won’t have much success replicating it on a remote working format.

5. Encourage a Creative Approach

Since your employees have to rely heavily on their own judgment, encourage them to solve problems creatively. If they’re referring back to you for every issue, you’re wasting valuable time.

When you give them the room to try new things, your workers feel more strongly towards the company. It encourages company loyalty and often, they’ll go the extra mile to do things for the business so they can live up to the responsibility. It also has the added benefit of bringing new voices into the fold. When each worker is engaging in the workplace, the level of conversation and flow of ideas automatically increases.

6. Inclusion

If your company is working on two levels and has both in-house and remote workers, you need to bridge the gap between them. It is up to you to make your remote workers feel included. Because even if they’re working from home, they’re equal members of your team. Also, if your remote teams need to work in tandem with your office workers, make sure everyone is on the same page.

You should have combined online sessions and take steps to ensure both sets of workers communicate effectively. The success of your company depends on everyone being on the same page in terms of brand identity, business strategy, and long term goals.

7. Avoid Multi-tasking

We’ve come far enough to know that multitasking isn’t good for productivity. This is a common problem in regular office setups where endless memos and team meetings keep workers for focusing on their tasks. Don’t let this problem carry over into your remote working strategy. Formal report-ins and email threads that require individual responses force a break in the workflow that hurts productivity. Also, avoid giving out multiple tasks at the same time. Let your employees devote their attention to one project.

8. Understand The Various Types of Remote Workers

Remote workers aren’t the same. Some people worst best without interference; others require assistance or the occasional check-in. Certain employees will break down a task and start working as soon as you assign it, while others need to ask detailed questions before they’re ready to begin.

This also translates into how your employees manage their time. The biggest problem remote workers face is time management. When you’re working from home, it’s hard to separate your work time from your free time. Some workers solve this issue by planning out their entire day in advance. So, if you assign a worker like this the last-minute deadline, it’ll upset their entire schedule. The best trick to managing remote employees is by figuring out which category they fall into and treating them accordingly.

Overall, managing remote employees isn’t very different from managing regular employees. As long as you focus on communication and sensitivity in the workplace, you’ll get good results.

Heather Harper

Heather Harper

Heather Harper has a Masters in Occupational Psychological from the University of Manchester. She currently works as an editorial writer specialising in organizational psychology - helping teams work better together.

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