6 Secrets Successful Managers Know About Managing Remote Employees

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As more businesses put together plans for re-opening, they have to determine whether employees will remain working 100% remotely or return to the office with some flexibility. Remote employees have proved that they can keep business running while working outside of a physical office. It appears that remote work is here to stay. 

According to a recent survey conducted by GitLab of 3,900 remote professionals on six continents, if remote work was suddenly no longer an option, 1 in 3 respondents would quit their job. Still, managers and executives need fresh ways to engage, motivate, and manage remote employees. 

Tips to Successfully Manage Remote Employees

Here are 6 research-based tips that our customers use to manage their remote or hybrid workforces: 

1. Set Expectations Early and Often

When you provide guidelines, set boundaries, and review expectations, then everyone is on the same page and it goes a long way toward alleviating assumptions that can derail morale. Be as clear as possible on priorities, milestones, performance goals, and more. This includes work hours and communications. Offer the best times for employees to reach you and team members. Also keep in mind that it can be difficult for some employees to create a clear delineation between work and life when working from home, which can lead to burn-out or resentment.

 In the GitLab survey, 42% of those surveyed admit that they struggle with maintaining boundaries while working away from the office. Setting expectations early and often will ensure that employees know what is expected of them while working remotely. 

2. Over Communicate 

Communication can be challenging in a set-location work environment so it must be a top priority for remote employees. Leveraging technology is key here but it’s important to use the tool that best fits the situation. 

For quick communication, tools like individual messaging might work best whereas, for problem-solving situations or where visual information needs to be communicated, video conferences might be needed. It’s crucial that managers communicate with remote employees beyond simple check-ins to keep everyone up-to-date on deadlines, resources, challenges, and the current environment (especially during times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic).

6 Secrets Successful Managers Know About Managing Remote Employees

3. Focus on Outcomes, Not Tasks

Instead of micro-managing tasks that remote employees are spending their time on, focus on the outcome. Does it really matter that your employee spent 20 minutes on a report instead of two hours if the report is useful and valuable? 

Once you’ve clearly defined the goals and desired results, allow employees to get the job done in the way that works for them. Trust that they know what they’re doing, especially if deadlines are met and they’re communicating with you on a regular basis. 

4. Provide Ways to Collaborate 

New technology makes collaboration easier and more immediate, no matter where your employees work. For example, if employees are developing learning or training content using a shared document via a content authoring tool is one-way teams can collaborate. It’s also important to agree as a team on acceptable behavior for virtual collaboration, like should you use video during a majority of virtual calls or how quickly to respond to messages from colleagues.

5. Remove Obstacles 

Each work environment has its specific challenges. Working remotely often means physical and emotional isolation and distractions at home pulling employees in multiple directions. There are also challenges the company faces that have an impact on remote employees: change, complexity, or new processes. Managers and leaders need to recognize these obstacles and remove as many as possible so employees can stay focused on their immediate goals and objectives. 

Instead of micro-managing tasks that remote employees are spending their time on, focus on the outcome. 

6. Show Empathy, and Listen

Especially in times of crisis or abrupt shifts in direction, it is important for managers to listen to remote employees’ concerns and empathize with their struggles. Effective managers and leaders take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmation of their confidence in their teams. With this support, employees are more likely to take up the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus. 

While many of these tactics seem simple, they aren’t easy. They require time and consistency, but these management tips work wonders for both employees and businesses. And in the new world of work, employees, managers, and executives need all the advantages available to them.