We live in a world where remote work is more common than ever. Whether these employees are working from a co-working space, home, or a coffee shop research shows remote workers are actually more productive. In addition there are plenty of other benefits associated with remote work like flexibility of schedules and reduced overhead for office space.
The one downside is that it’s often difficult to manage remote employees as opposed to face to face engagement. You’re already rolling the dice on an employee who could have fabricated their work history when they use a resume builder. While this is true there are still plenty of ways to work around the managerial issues to enjoy the many benefits that come along with remote workers.
Here are five strategies you can use to effectively manage remote employees.
Utilize Cloud Technologies
If you want to effectively manage remote employees you absolutely need to use cloud technologies. It’s plain and simple. Ideally you want to find cloud solutions for all of your most common business practices. Whether it’s invoicing, customer relations, or calendar management your employees should be able to access these platforms from anywhere.
Products like DropBox and BaseCamp allow for seamless file sharing and project management. In addition, when you isolate workflows to a single platform it leaves little room for confusion and requires much less communication. Ideally you want your remote workers to be self sufficient. If they need to constantly ask where to find on-going projects you’re in trouble.
Set Clear (And Written) Expectations
When you manage remote employees you need to establish the same guidelines as you would for any employee. From the get go you need to set clear expectations. In addition you should put those expectations down in writing and make sure every employee has a copy.
Include details like what are required hours of availability, acceptable lines of communication, and any penalties for abuse of the policy. As long as the rules follow standard practices your workers shouldn’t have an issue. This way you can set the tone before work even begins.
Use Video Conferences As Much As Possible
Face to face meetings are always best. The second best are video conferences. For team updates, status meetings, Agile retrospectives, or conference calls you should always use a video conference. Video calls give nonverbal cues which go a long way on big conference calls.
For example, if you can see everyone it’s easy to know who’s speaking and who wants to get their word in next. In addition it eliminates multitasking since attendees are all focused on the video. This helps keep everyone on track and engaged.
There are plenty of free video calling services available like Skype and Google Hangouts. Unless you need a ton of additional features you should definitely start with a free service.
Build One on One Relationships
One of the biggest issues you’ll run into when you manage remote employees is the inability to connect personally. When you’re working virtually with someone it’s common to keep everything work related. Calls are usually limited to brief small talk then straight to the task at hand.
Now I’m not trying to say you should spend less time on your required tasks. I’m simply saying you should try to reach out to employees after hours and during downtime to connect personally. Ask about their family, favorite hobbies, sports, or anything you think would help bring the two of you closer. The more you can do this with each employee the more they will respect you as a manager and more productive they will be in the long run.
Arrange a Face to Face Meeting Every Year
If it’s possible you should always try to arrange at least one face to face meeting with your employees once a year. A great strategy for this is to choose a conference related to your industry and have your whole team attend. That way you can get your team together and gain value from the conference at the same time.
A big plus is if you can choose a conference in an exotic location. I’m sure your employees would much rather attend a conference in Hawaii as opposed to Dallas.
Hiring remote workers isn’t always the right choice for your business, however it’s definitely worth taking into consideration. We live in a world where we can connect to millions of other people all on a single platform. Aside from the few cons, remote employees are great with proper management. That said make sure you utilize the five strategies above to effectively manage remote employees.
Renzo Costarella is an entrepreneur, avid learner, and startup enthusiast currently living in Silicon Valley. He consults for several startups in the Bay Area and is pursuing a few ideas of his own.