How to manage employees working remotely
Offering employees the opportunity to manage their schedules and work from the convenience of their own home is an attractive prospect. As a manager, organising employees remotely, monitoring productivity and maintaining good channels of communication presents many challenges.
The key focus of effective management is promoting cohesion within a team. Employees need to feel trusted to complete their day to day tasks without the looming threat of management watching over them constantly to ensure they are poised at the desk and always ready for action. In some respects, distance from your employee can prove beneficial to your relationship with your team, both as individuals and as a collective.
To effectively manage your team, regularly engaging with your employees with a casually curious interest in their work will cultivate an excellent open channel of communication. Via chat software such as Slack, Whatsapp, Zoom, Google hangout or Skype, one can fire questions and feedback back and forth regularly. Clarify if 'do not disturb' or 'away from desk' statuses should be necessary when someone takes a break from their computer. Schedule a daily or weekly briefing session with staff, and encourage your team to schedule virtual meetings and make your expectations of employee productivity clear during each discussion. If you do not feel entirely confident about the reliability of your team's time keeping skills, encourage the use of clocking-in via an email or Zoom. Since there is a greater distance between you and opportunistic encounters in the hallway or working community spaces are unlikely to happen, show interest on a personal level in your team's lifestyles and personal events. Bookmark Birthdays, engage in chats when employees return from vacation and ensure team building events or parties happen once a year to allow everyone to be physically present and in one another company informally.
Personal touches such as internal emails celebrating company success, circulating shout outs from fellow employees or customers and bulletins of upcoming changes also cultivate community spirit and are a good way of acknowledging achievement. These emails can provide talking points between the team and even offer incentives. Charity events promote a sense of morale and a good feeling within an organisation. Consider a company fun run or coffee morning and donate proceedings from cake sales etc. to a chosen charity.
Various software channels provide online training opportunities. By promoting skill progression and professional evolution, your team will feel invested in and valued. Pay attention to what motivates your team independently and as a collective. If you respect the drivers behind each individual and make an effort to recognise them, you will promote brand loyalty in turn supporting productivity.
Apathy is the most counterproductive emotion which can be present in your team. If you do notice someone lacking in motivation, find the opportunity to raise the issue sensitively with them and develop an action plan together which is monitored regularly. Leniency can be perceived by the rest of the team as a weakness and if other members of the team become affected by one person's apathy, this can spread quickly, so if you are able it may be necessary to engineer a change of mindset for this person.
Finally, emails and questions from your team require individual responses. Avoid 'reply all' email responses, invite feedback from your employees on ideas about improving the overall attitude and cohesion of the team. Receive criticism with an open mind and you will allow employees to feel in control of their working lives, which is paramount to job satisfaction.