How to effectively manage remote employees and keep them motivated
Flexible working can bring many benefits to a company, including increased productivity, reduced employee turnover and cost savings. But having a dispersed team – especially one where team members work at different times – can be a major challenge for managers, many of whom will have had little or no experience of leading a remote workforce.
In addition, remote working over 20% of the time can make employees feel disengaged from their team, with reduced collaboration cited as one of the biggest potential downsides.
So what can you do as a manager to make sure your remote team members remain engaged and produce results? Here’s our advice on how to manage remote employees more effectively and keep them motivated.
Have clear lines of communication
Nothing gets clearer than these lines of communication
Phone, email, Skype, Slack, face-to-face… We have so many different methods to communicate via that it’s often easy to assume that employees know how and when they can speak to you. But when someone is working remotely, they may feel disconnected from what’s happening in the office and not feel able to approach you when they need.
One of the best ways to approach this is to have clearly defined methods of communication for different scenarios, and provide these details from the start. For example, at Wisembly we have a basic structure for communication as below:
Slack – non-urgent messages to individuals and updates to share with the team. We also created a social channel where employees can post non-work related stuff that may be of interest to the team
Email – important communications that must be documented and/or require sign off. These should also loop in anyone for whom the information is relevant.
Phone / face-to-face – urgent communications or to clarify something. This should always be followed up by an email to confirm what was discussed… no exceptions!
Regular one-to-one catch-up meetings (whether in person, on the phone or on Skype) are also really important if someone is working mainly offsite, as it allows you to listen to any concerns and work together to set milestones. Check out our previous blog for tips on how to get the best out of your one-to-one meetings.
Keep shared goals at the forefront
When a person is working remotely, it can be difficult for them to see how the work they do contributes to the bigger picture or relates to what others in their team do. That’s why you should make sure that employees don’t just understand what they need to do, but why they need to do it in context of the overall goals and objectives you have as a team.
But simply defining what the goals are isn’t enough; you need to keep them at the forefront at all times. While this can be done through progress updates during a weekly or fortnightly team meeting, think about how you can integrate this within you day-to-day.
This could be via a shared board or project management tool where team members can see how work is progressing towards the overall goals – the Wisembly team use Trello to achieve this. Providing visibility at all times helps to maintain a collaborative culture where everyone is working towards the same end goal and understand where they fit.
Set realistic targets for delivery
When we say realistic targets, we don’t mean “just buy this neon sign”
Flexible working is all about giving employees the freedom to complete their work in the way they feel is best required for a given scenario. For organisations this means valuing an employee not on their time, but on the results they produce. This starts with having clearly defined objectives and milestones which must be delivered, and for which your employee is accountable.
However, it is important that you as a manager have a good understanding of what you are asking of your team members, as well as the feasibility of them delivering it within a certain amount of time. This can be more difficult to assess if you aren’t seeing them on a daily basis, which is another reason why it’s so important to have regular one-to-ones. Expecting employees to deliver something that is unachievable is likely to lead to a breakdown in your relationship and leave them feeling demotivated, so this is something you want to avoid happening.
Managing a remote workforce may require a little more structure than if your team was in the office, but the basic principles of communication, collaboration and delivering results remain the same. Follow our advice above and you’ll ensure that your team will remain motivated and working together, regardless of where they may be working.