7 ways to manage remote workers
Here’s a question I got asked this week:
“Hi Barbara – I have a team that consists of some remote workers and find managing them a challenge as they’re not in the same place. Any tips?”
I loved this question as I could completely relate. Back when I had a ‘proper job’ I also managed a team of remote workers who were spread far and wide across the UK, so understand how it can work well and also where it can fall down at times.
Saying that, remote working can be so beneficial for both the individuals and the company alike, and often all it takes are some tweaks to the way you manage, for your team to feel motivated and empowered to do their job.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Be clear about job roles and expectations
If it’s a new team member (or even if it’s a new position) be really clear about the role and what is expected of them. In order for remote working to be successful there has to be a strong element of trust (see below) and it really helps if you have a list of what you’ve agreed in terms of ways of working right from the start.
- Keep them in the team
If they are part of a team it can be very easy for remote workers to start to feel excluded. Encourage other members of the team to give them a call- even if it’s for a quick chat and catch up. By doing this on a regular basis they can soon feel like they know what’s going on without actually being there.
- Increase your communication
Communication is everything, as remote workers aren’t privy to quick chats at a desk or over lunch, or a discussion that might have happened naturally in a meeting. It’s also very easy to forget that this information could and does matter to someone in the field, and when they don’t get it can be a quick route to them feeling excluded and not part of the team.
Set up regular calls or e-mails (whichever is preferable to both of you), when you can relay any info as it comes up. You might also want to call every so often – just for a chat, to see how they’re getting on.
- Flex your communication style
It’s really natural for us to always communicate in the style which we prefer without even realising that it might not be the other persons preference. Flexing your style to suit the remote worker is even more important so that you don’t get breakdowns in communication that can be easily resolved with a face to face chat. Ask the other person what they need from you, how often they want to touch base, and how much detail they like. For some a little and often might do the trick, whilst others might want a long conversation, or much more detail on an email.
- Have regular meetings
Just because they’re working remotely doesn’t mean that you can’t have regular meetings. If possible arrange to go and join them where they are, have them come into the office every so often with all of the team, or even have a proper sit down Skype chat.
- Give them everything they need to do their job properly
Without the luxury of just being able to grab the IT department about their lap top or internet connection, little things can soon escalate and take all day. Ensure they have absolutely everything they need, they know how to use it all, and have a contact just in case it all goes belly up.
This is a biggie and to be honest should be points 1-7 on its own as without trust none of this will work as who needs to be working remotely whilst their manager is on the phone / e-mail every 2 minutes?
Empower your team member to work independently, make sure they have all the tools and information they need to do this and agree regular check in points…and then let them do their job.
I’d love to know your thoughts and tips of managing remote workers. Let me know by leaving a comment.