How to Manage Remote Workers

By Gary Utley on June 11, 2020

Managing employees is already challenging. Managing remote employees can feel like an insurmountable task. For a manager, close relationships with employees are critical — and not being able to see employees face-to-face can fill even the most experienced manager with doubt. Now that employees are working from home far more often, how can you ensure that your management skills remain effective?

Time-Based vs. Project-Based Milestones

In the early days of remote work, many experiments with remote work utterly failed. The problem was in an emphasis between time-based and remote-based work.

It’s a fool’s errand for a company to make sure that at-home employees are working eight hours between 9 to 5. But it is possible for a company (and its managers) to make sure at-home employees are completing their work by the requested deadlines. Project-based milestones aren’t just more sensible from a practical point of view. They also make employees happier.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether an employee completes their work at 10 AM on the day before it’s due or 10 PM on the day before it’s due; all that matters is that the work is finished the day before it’s due. This shift in milestones can greatly reduce the amount of micromanagement a manager needs to do.

Remaining Connected with Your Team

Video conferencing solutions and real-time chatting such as the Microsoft Teams platform can make it much easier to hold conversations with your team members. This keeps morale up, builds bonds, and ensures that employees remain engaged. Employees who are suddenly working remotely or who work remotely the majority of the time may start to feel as though they are disconnected from the company and their colleagues. They won’t feel as motivated to contribute to the company, because they will no longer have that personal feeling of commitment.

Productivity Software and Collaboration

Project management solutions, collaborative tools, and productivity suites can all help employees stay on track and not miss their deadlines.

One of the hardest elements of working from home is that there can be constant distractions. Understand that some of your employees may be forced to work, at first, with children around, or with other distractions.

Productivity software gives employees a way to control their own efficiency, by taking charge of it. For managers like you, it helps you identify the employees who are not handling the transition well, and employees who may need a little additional help.  

As for collaborative tools, these are necessary to ensure that employees are still able to work together despite being apart. Collaborative tools such as Office 365 make it possible for employees to work on even the same documents together, without overwriting each other’s work.

Office 365 is a uniquely powerful collaborative tool because it comes backed with all the tools that employees often use (such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), all integrated together into a singular collaborative ecosystem. Organizations which haven’t transitioned over to new collaborative solutions should endeavor to do so as early as possible, to protect the efficiency of their team.

Remain Understanding During the Transition

A switch to remote work can be confusing and exhausting to some. When employees transition to remote work, give them some leeway at first. They’re figuring out what works for them, and a rigid schedule may not be possible.

Above all, technology can be confusing for many first-time at home workers. Not only do they need to setup their own home office, but they may be struggling with tools that used to be familiar, but that are now transitioning to an online or cloud-based platform. Not every employee is computer savvy, and many may not be able to adapt as quickly as others.

Avoid Micro-Management

Managers and employees often begin to grow frustrated with each other due to micromanagement. On the manager’s end, they may not feel as included in the work process as they were before, and they may not know whether the work is getting done to their standards. On the employee’s end, they may start to feel as though they are spending more time checking in with their manager than they are working, and they may feel as though their manager no longer trusts them.

While it can be difficult to lose control, the bottom line for a manager is this: Either a manager can trust their employees to do work, or they cannot. If they cannot trust their employees, then an Improvement Plan should be created. But if they can trust their employees, no level of micromanagement will help them. Managing remote workforce employees is about finding ways to support their development.

Is your company transitioning to remote work? Is your business trying to find the best ways to manage remote employees, while still retaining control over its infrastructure? If you want to learn more about a transition to remote working, contact the experts at Red River.

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