5 Tips For Managing Remote Workers

April 10, 2018 Management

Nearly 4 million Americans work from home at least half the week.

According to some findings, remote workers are outperforming office workers.

The trend will probably continue. It’s beneficial both for companies and for the workers. This study found that workers can save thousands every year by working from home. And businesses can save as well.

In my work, I’ve been working with remote teams since 2010. Both in the US and around the world. It’s really amazing how small the world is today. I can only imagine that we’ll collaborate more and more without boundaries in the future.

But it’s not all positive. At least not on the surface. Employees, including remote employees, want to feel connected. Many feel neglected by the companies they work for.

Here are some of my tips for managing remote workers to make sure they’re happy and satisfied…and productive.

1. Improve Text-Based Communication

I won’t mention tools too much in this piece. You can find other articles about collaborative tools and project management tools and all that kind of stuff.

The key to it all, for the most part, is text-based communication skills. The big one that I’ve used for the last decade with remote workers is email. I can’t see that going away anytime soon.

With email, a few things to avoid are making emails too long. You always want to use proper sentences, but not too long, so it’s easy to read and comprehend. Shorthand and poor grammar seem to lead to confusion and lack of comprehension.

I can also see text messaging getting more prominent in the future. Skills with this method will be critical. Learning all the nuances including getting your message across without using too many words will be important.

Calling is still fine for remote work, but with different time zones and people putting high value on their time, text-based communication rules. Send a message and the person gets back to you when they can.

2. Set Response Time Expectations

Building on that last sentence is the idea of wanting to set expectations with your remote team especially with response time. I find that one business day is an adequate response time. This accounts for the time differences across the world. It also encourages the team not to instantly respond if they don’t need to. This way they can work without interruption.

In our world today it’s easy for the newest things to seem urgent even if they’re really not. But it’s key to set expectations because if a worker thinks it’s okay to respond in two days and you expect a response in one then you’ll have issues.

3. Figure Out Their Work Time Preferences

Another item with remote work is the flexibility it allows for the working schedule. That’s one of the appealing things about it. If you’re a morning person you can start right away at 5:00 AM and work through until the early afternoon. If you’re more of an evening person you don’t need to begin until noon.

The key to it all, again, is to set expectations. I think it’s the job of the manager to know each worker’s preference and personality and put them in position to succeed.

Don’t try to force people to work when they’re not at their peak abilities. Put them in positions to succeed. And watch your response time expectations. If you’re a morning person and send out an email at 5:00 AM don’t expect your evening worker to respond until that evening at the earliest.

4. Let Them Use You As A Resource To Improve

I also believe that it’s the role of the manager to work for the team members. Not the other way around. You want to put your team in a position to succeed. You want to be available to answer questions. You want to give them the resources they need to do their jobs.

Free up your own schedule so you’re available to answer questions and provide feedback. One key with remote work is that workers can feel left out on an island. They can feel like they’re on their own. You want to bridge that gap and be available for everything. Don’t do the work for them, but be there to provide answers or to point them in the right direction or to find them resources that can help.

5. Provide Positive Feedback

Let’s end with a good one. Remote work can lead to a lot of negative feedback. A remote worker can do 90% of a project perfectly. Beyond expectations even. But on that project they’ll hear about the 10% that needs to be changed.

In isolation that’s no big deal. But over the course of many projects and many days that 10% can really wear people down. It’s just negative feedback building on negative feedback with maybe the occasional praise here and there.

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure your workers know they’re appreciated. You can’t smile at them in passing in the office to let them know you appreciate them. You have to go above and beyond to let them know via text-based communication.

You can still give negative feedback, but don’t overlook the power of positive reinforcement.

Conclusion

I think remote work is one of the great trends in our lifetimes. It allows people to have more control over their time. It appears that it also allows for better work. We still have to watch the relationship side of things, though. And we also need to make sure the communication is solid. Follow the tips above and things should be positive for you and your remote team.