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Best Practice Tips for Successfully Managing a Remote Workforce

Flexible work arrangements have been around for decades but now that we’re beginning to see the new era of work take shape it’s more important than ever to support and manage remote teams in a way that allows them to work effectively from home—ensuring sustainability of day-to-day operations. Managing employees without daily face-to-face interaction has its own unique set of challenges but when leaders focus their skills on the right set of best practices employees—and organizations—can excel.

Being proficient at managing remote employees requires strong communication skills, reachability, positive reinforcement, flexibility, and empathy. Productivity is no longer based on “desk time” and visible activity, managers must now gauge success based on outcomes and revise how they lead their people while finding new ways to keep them engaged.

Implement these best practice tips to improve morale, productivity, and engagement.

  1. Set clear expectations and healthy boundaries— Provide guidelines, clarify priorities, and set boundaries. Working from home makes it much easier for work to seep into other areas of life. Ensure your team understands what is expected of them—specifically around working hours and availability, performance and what defines success.
  2. Define the why — Ensure your team knows their role in helping the organization to achieve success and maintain sustainability.One’s sense of pride and accomplishment for their work is directly tied to productivity and when employees are happy with their work, they feel valued, see the impact, and want to stay with the organization.  
  3. Communicate — Remote employees can feel disconnected which can lead to a whole host of other problems. You can combat this with regular and meaningful communication, recognizing that motivated employees are more productive and engaged. Keep workers up to date on policy and staffing changes and company successes and give praise and positive reinforcement as often as possible. The longer you go without communicating with your team, the more likely they are to become disengaged from their work.
  4. Schedule regular check-ins — More frequent use of video conferencing can help to strengthen the relationship between manager and employee as well as the team as a whole. Always set aside some time for small talk—asking about their weekend or plans for an upcoming holiday can help them feel more connected. These check-ins also allow your staff the opportunity to provide updates on their work and express any frustrations they may be experiencing.
  5. Take advantage of technology — Tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Monday.com provide solutions to some of the biggest challenges a remote workforce experiences and can help to bring remote co-workers together through face-to-face conversations and collaboration. Not to mention can also help with project management and daily task tracking.
  6. Focus on outcomes, not hours worked — Trust is crucial in this day and age of work. It erodes your employees’ trust and confidence. Providing expectations (goals and desired results) surrounding work priorities and then allowing employees to own the execution can enhance creativity, reduces stress, and build morale.
  7. Provide what they need — Make it a point to regularly ask your employees if they have what they need in order to do their job successfully. As company initiatives and goals evolve, their needs may change by way of what technology they use to get the job done. Set them up for ongoing success.
  8. Show compassion, patience, and empathy — The remote work environment is a completely different ball game than being in an office where there aren’t children playing, dogs barking, or Amazon ring the doorbell. All of these distractions can cause unforeseen stress, both physical and emotional, damaging productivity and your bottom line. The most successful managers are good listeners and asking for employee feedback opens the pathway to great conversations and shows you genuinely care.
  9. Don’t forget about team building — Bonding activities help foster a sense of unity, boosts morale, and builds connections. Virtual events such as online Bingo, Tiny Campfire, remote MTV Cribs, escape rooms, or happy hour are wildly popular.  
  10. Celebrate successes — Now more than ever, your employees need positive reinforcement to keep them motivated. Celebrate milestones and daily accomplishments with a shout-out, host virtual competition games or team luncheons, send e-Cards for work anniversaries and birthdays, or host an Employee Appreciation Day.  You’ll want to plan ahead and get creative.

There are many ways to develop better relationships with a remote team that include transparent communication, open doors, and clear expectations to name a few. Micromanaging employees has never been a favorable practice and can cause undue stress for employees—leaving them to feel like they’re not trusted to do their work. While these best practice tips require time, attention, and consistency, they can help to develop healthy habits that allow your team to maintain productivity and achieve goals.

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