Remote work is becoming more and more popular. This trend is highlighted in a Quartz chart showing how the number of Americans working from home has increased throughout the years. In 2000, the percentage of U.S. workers doing remote work was only 3.3%. In 2017, it had risen to 5.2%, and it is expected to rise even more as technology continues to advance.
With more employees working from home, managers need to know how to effectively manage them. Here are some useful tips on how to be an effective remote manager.
Set clear and concrete expectations
This is the top management tip given by the Forbes Coaching Council when dealing with a remote workforce. Straightaway tell your remote workers what you expect from them. Explain to them in detail what qualifies as "a job well done." Outline what they need to do, why they need to do it, and how they can do it. By doing this, you are preparing your workforce for their tasks and responsibilities as you won't be there physically while they work to guide them.
Focus on productivity, not activity
In line with setting clear expectations, make it a point to focus on productivity. Create a results-driven culture. However, it is also important to allow the workers to take advantage of working from home. There will be employees who can accomplish more in less time. If they can do a good job in two hours instead of four, let them enjoy their downtime. Remember, activity doesn't necessarily equate to efficiency. Aim for the latter. It will benefit both your business and your workforce.
Use technology to your advantage
This point is critical to any remote working setup, mainly because it helps tie up all the other points outlined in this article. In our post on 'How to Simplify Your Business Processes in the New Year' we advised you to use the latest technology and tools for remote workers. The latest tech will help you manage your remote workforce more effectively as you will be able to send updates and documents easily. Team collaboration platforms will also be invaluable in the context of managing remote workers. This is because they can "make sure that everyone is on the same page". ‘A Full Guide to Managing Remote Employees’ by Yoss emphasizes the importance of using tools specifically designed for an out of office workforce. They detail how tools such as Slack and Dropbox will “increase remote worker collaboration and engagement.”
This is particularly relevant given how communication is an issue among many remote employees. A report on remote working concerns notes how 70% of remote workers "feel left out of the workplace." Some 57% say they miss out on important information, while 55% report that they get excluded from meetings because of their remote location. These problems seem relatively mundane, but they can affect both productivity and employee morale. Therefore, it is imperative to take advantage of the aforementioned technologies to address these issues.
Communicate your values
In a CNBC article on leading a remote workforce, contributor Rhett Power makes this interesting point: "Your culture is your values, your way of doing business, your communication style." So, communicate these values to every member of your team. Doing so "creates a sense of loyalty and community," and this can translate to productivity. Again, you can use good communication tools for this purpose. Regularly check up on everyone and make them feel part of the group. Encourage each member and foster camaraderie. If need be, point out mistakes, but do so respectfully. These little things will help you create a strong company culture.
Remote work presents unique challenges. Notably it limits personal interaction, and even close monitoring. But by following the tips above you will be able to address such challenges. Better yet you will be able to maximize the work-from-home setup to the benefit of your business.