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Managing remote employees has become an essential skill for people leaders as they adapt to the new normal. Remote work offers many benefits, such as increased productivity, improved work-life balance, and lower overhead costs. And many of the key strategies for effective management remain the same for in-office and remote workforces alike. Whether it’s providing frequent recognition, listening to employee feedback, or working to build a sense of community among team members, these techniques pay dividends no matter where your team members get the job done.
But implementing these practices remotely comes with unique challenges. Without the right tools and strategies, it can be difficult to ensure that remote workers stay on task and remain productive. If your company is looking for best practices it can implement to get the most out of its remote workforce, look no further. Here are 7 effective strategies for managing remote employees and maximizing their productivity.
1. Foster a sense of community
Communication is a foundational part of team and organizational success. This is doubly true for remote workforces, as sticking your head in a team member’s doorway or over their cubicle wall is no longer an option. Effective communication helps build trust, clarify expectations, and maintain morale and engagement. Most of all, it fosters a real sense of community and belonging, combatting the isolation that can accompany remote work.
Encourage your team to connect with each other on a personal level and establish relationships built on more than just work with team building activities and virtual social gatherings. Managers can encourage and organize fun events like virtual happy hours, online games, and team lunches to help remote employees feel more connected. Always make clear that these are voluntary — no one likes to be forced into having “fun” — and solicit feedback from employees in advance on what types of team building activities they’re most interested in.
2. Establish regular check-ins
Regular check-ins are one of the simplest and most effective ways to maintain open lines of communication between managers and their direct reports. But establishing clear guidelines on when and how to touch base is a must to avoid the trap of micromanagement. Collaboratively determine things like what cadence works best for individual team members, which topics, if any, should generally be on the agenda, and how long each check-in should be. This helps ensure that check-ins remain productive and engaging, rather than a chore that employees don’t see the value of.
3. Leverage tools for collaboration
Remote work is only possible due to the many solutions now available for collaborating and communicating from anywhere with an internet connection. Video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, chat solutions like Slack and Google Workspace, and project management platforms like Jira and Asana are all great options for improving coordination and connection across your company.
Carefully evaluate and adopt those platforms that suit your company’s needs best, and offer comprehensive training on them so each employee feels comfortable using your company’s software ecosystem. And avoid overwhelming remote workers with tools they rarely need to use or lack an intuitive front end.
4. Set clear expectations
Employees need to know what’s expected of them in order to succeed, and remote workers are no different. Managers need to communicate expectations around work hours, productivity, deadlines, and performance goals. Perhaps most importantly, managers need to establish guidelines for communication. Beyond the check-in practices covered above, these guidelines should address how to communicate progress and handle urgent issues that arise unexpectedly.
5. Communicate the purpose behind remote employees’ work
Beyond the how and the what, employees crave to understand — and buy into — the why behind their work. This can be difficult enough for companies to communicate without the added barriers remote work puts in the way. If employees aren’t in the same place, it’s that much harder to see how their discrete tasks contribute towards business success and organizational goals.
To keep employees on the same page regardless of where they are, define your company values and make them a core part of everything your company does. HR should train leaders on how to practice your unique organizational values and connect their teams’ work to those values, whether it’s during a brief customer service interaction or during the final negotiations leading up to a major acquisition. With concise, easily digestible values that are kept front and center every day, remote employees will maintain a strong sense of connection to your organization and its larger purpose.
6. Recognize and reward achievements
Managers should strive to cultivate a positive work environment that encourages teamwork and engagement. And there’s no better way for leaders to establish a virtuous cycle of positivity than by frequently recognizing and rewarding employees — along with encouraging team members to show appreciation more often. Adopt a recognition platform that lets all employees easily send messages of thanks through an intuitive, mobile-friendly app. If it includes a robust catalog filled with rewards employees want – all redeemable through points team members automatically accrue and gift to each other – then your remote workforce is truly on the way to becoming part of a culture of recognition.
7. Support work-life balance and flexibility
Remote employment naturally lends itself to better work-life balance, so don’t be afraid to lean into this advantage at your organization. Encourage your remote employees to take breaks, disconnect after work hours, and prioritize their mental health. Fighting burnout and improving wellness are two of the best ways you can ensure the long-term productivity of your workforce.
And as long as they get the work done and are available when coworkers and other parties need them, offer remote employees at least some flexibility when it comes to scheduling. Team members won’t forget the manager who let them take a couple hours of flex time to attend an important family event — or the manager who refused for no apparent reason.
Elevate the remote employee experience
All of the practices above contribute to a better employee experience for your remote workers. But pursuing these initiatives piecemeal is likely to overwhelm your organization’s HR department and deliver underwhelming results in turn. Instead, leverage a modern solution that integrates everything you need to engage your remote workforce in a single platform. The Achievers Employee Experience Platform includes both Achievers Recognize — a science-driven recognition and rewards solution that delivers over 17 million messages of appreciation every year — and Achievers Listen, an engagement tool that provides easy-to-use feedback channels for your entire workforce.
Try a free demo of the Achievers Employee Experience Platform today and see how it can elevate remote worker management at your company.