A Quick Guide to Managing Remote Employees
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A Quick Guide to Managing Remote Employees

With the right tools and processes in place, there’s no reason why remote work can’t be as productive and efficient as being at the office.

Are you wondering how to manage remote workers? You’re not alone. Despite the rising popularity of remote work, many organizations still have little experience in the area. And it’s not surprising; some managers have resisted switching to remote work for years, citing potential issues like employee distractions and miscommunication. But fear not: with the right tools and processes in place, there’s no reason why remote work can’t be as productive and efficient as your previous structure.

Set the right expectations

Even though you’ve probably been managing a remote workforce for a while now, it’s never too late to pause, take stock of things, and reiterate some ground rules. What time are your remote workers expected to “clock in,” if at all? Are there “desk hours” during which you’d like everyone to be present and accounted for? This is also a good time to review good virtual meeting etiquette tips, like no snacking while your mic is unmuted.

You may also want to set some guidelines designed to prevent employees from overdoing it, too. If there’s is a time in which you will stop replying to texts or emails, let your employees know, and consider extending them the same courtesy. In addition, if employees need to ask for permission to work “overtime,” make sure that this policy is understood. Outlining appropriate times to stop working will help mitigate issues and conflicts just as much as the reverse.

Lastly, it never hurts to sit down with each team member, check in on how they’re doing, and review their role and the responsibilities that were outlined when they signed on. Let your employees know that no one is being punished; you’re simply trying to make sure that everyone understands and agrees on expectations. When employees feel like there is a solid structure in place, it can help to reduce stress levels.

Woman on a conference call with a clock in the background

Pick the right online collaboration tools

Your next step in managing a remote team is to ensure that employees have everything they need to be successful. This can include hardware, like desks, computers, and headphones, and software, like Slack, Trello, and Spendesk. If you’ve never heard of these online collaboration tools, here’s a brief rundown of their benefits:

  • Slack: An internal communication tool used mainly for its instant messaging feature.
  • Trello: A project management tool that helps employees keep track of project statuses.
  • Payfit: A payroll and HR tool that can help you compensate workers remotely.
  • Spendesk: A tool that helps virtual teams manage business expenses.

The most important team collaboration tool you will need, of course, is a video engagement platform, which we’ll dive into in the next section. For now, let’s take a moment to discuss physical resources. Some items you might want to consider giving employees (or reimbursing them for) include:

  • A work-only desktop or laptop computer
  • Scanners, printers, or backup drives * An ergonomic mouse, keyboard, or chair
  • Microphones and webcams which can make communication cleaner and clearer

This brings us to our next topic: video.

Choose the right video engagement software

Clear communication is a must when working remotely. Since almost all of your interactions will take place via a screen, it’s crucial to choose a video engagement platform that’s steady and reliable.

One good tip is to choose a browser-based platform, rather than one which requires downloads and installations. Browser-based video platforms use P2P technology to connect users, meaning that they do not require a third-party server or app to facilitate the transmission. Since communication doesn’t need to pass through a third-party service, issues that once plagued video tools, like glitches and lags, do not occur as often, if at all. In addition, browser-based platforms have the added security strength of the browser itself (like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) on top of the security features within the app itself.

Resist the urge to micro-manage your remote team

We get it: with your team scattered to the winds, and your employees able to do pretty much whatever they want with impunity, you may worry that your usual standards and processes won’t be adhered to. But as hard as it may be, resist your urge to micromanage. This will only disengage and fatigue your employees, who, let’s face it, are probably a little less inclined to be loyal now that they can work virtually anywhere in the world.

Instead, pump the brakes, take a deep breath, and focus on what’s being accomplished, not how. Accept that, as long as the same goals and benchmarks are being met, it’s okay to allow a little flexibility in your process and procedures. Empowering teams to complete assignments in their own time and space can help create a positive, healthy work culture—a perk that most employees value over a higher salary and other (costly) benefits.

woman walking outside of grey building wearing large blazer

Encourage asynchronous communication

While the global transition to remote work has had many benefits, it’s also exacerbated a problem that already existed in the working world: we are able to access one another at any time. We can, and do, check emails and respond to text messages around the clock. However, some research suggests that this can have a harmful effect on our productivity.

According to research by the Harvard Business Review, the time employees spend on collaboration has increased by more than 50% over the past two decades. Researchers found it was not uncommon for workers to spend a full 80% of their workdays communicating with colleagues in the form of email, meetings, and instant messaging apps such as Slack. Researchers concluded that all of these real-time communication interruptions drain employees’ mental resources, disrupt focus, and generally impede progress on assignments.

Therefore, to avoid this, try to embrace a more asynchronous communication approach. This is an approach that permits employees to respond to emails and other messages in their own time, not as soon as the messages are received. Because employees don’t have to address each message as it comes in, they can block off large chunks of uninterrupted time to perform high-value, “deep focus” work—the type that creates the most value for organizations.

Organize virtual team-building activities

Drumming up employees’ team spirit when they aren’t working face-to-face can be difficult. However, the same virtual collaboration tools which you use to host meetings can also be used to host virtual team-building activities designed to promote unity. These can range from elaborate to simple; for instance, one fun team-building activity is a “show and tell” game wherein each team member discusses an object that has meaning for them. Little exercises like this can help employees get to know one another, build trust, and hopefully cooperate more fully on work assignments.

Build your remote workforce through virtual interviews

We mentioned earlier that, thanks to the explosion in remote working, your employees now have the option to work for pretty much anyone, anywhere. The upshot to this rather disconcerting news is that you can seek employees from around the country or the globe, from the comfort of your own living room.

This has a couple of benefits: Firstly, you can screen for the best candidate with the best qualifications anywhere, not just in your immediate geographical area. It also expedites the interviewing process for both interviewer and interviewee. Your potential hire doesn’t have the stress of traveling to a new place, and you don’t have to worry about compensating them for it. Once you’ve got one or two top options picked out, it’s always a good idea to meet in person; but the majority of candidates can be vetted from afar.

close up of a globe in sepia

Help orient newcomers with video onboarding

Once you’ve selected your ideal candidate, you can use the same video collaboration tool you used to interview them to bring them on board. Onboarding remote workers with video is a fun, easy way to illustrate your company’s core values, policies, and processes, as well as introduce them to their fellow teammates. And unlike in-person, spoken onboarding, video onboarding allows new hires to review training materials whenever they need them.

Video onboarding also tends to benefit employers, too. Firstly, it frees up time for administrative or HR team members, which can help lower costs. And secondly, video is a rather fun medium that allows you to create a more personalized experience for new hires. Written onboarding materials tend to be dryer and duller than video, meaning that they’re less likely to be referenced.

Final thoughts

To wrap up, remember that all your workers are on your team because they bring something fantastic to your business. Listen to them, support them, and trust them, and most employees will put in the time and effort needed to get things done. When the right processes are in place, remote work can be an incredible solution that lowers company costs, maximizes employee retention, and increases productivity.

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Molly Hocutt

Molly Hocutt

Molly Hocutt has been a Content Manager at Livestom since 2019. She has more than five years of experience in SaaS content writing and B2B marketing.