The traditional workplace has always had everyone working together at the same location, usually at the same time.
Modern technology and the needs of our evolving business world have led to an ever-increasing number of employees working remotely, however. This work set-up can be a great way to reduce overhead, but it can cause headaches for management if they’re not in a remote mentality. You just can’t handle remote teams the same way that you do onsite workers and expect to get the same results.
With that said, what’s the best way to handle workers who work remotely? While the answer will in large part depend on what your business does and who you have doing the work, here are a few ideas for remote team best practices to get you started:
Establish Communication First and Foremost
- Effective communication is vital to the business world, and it becomes even more important when dealing with employees who aren’t located at the main office. You need to be able to get in touch with everyone, and they need to be able to get back in touch with you. Both of you need to be able to do this reliably. This is why establishing effective communication channels is so important.
- Decide on a means of communication and require all remote workers to use it so that you’re all on the same page. Set up communication times as well, either in the form of “office hours” or times that you and they are guaranteed to check for missed messages or calls.
Get Their Full Attention
- When you’re talking to remote employees, make sure that they’re giving you their full attention. It’s often recommended that you use video conferencing technology to accomplish this, since it lets you see the person on the other end and make sure that they aren’t working on anything else or goofing off while you’re on the call.
By those same means, give your employee all of your attention until the call has ended. This will help ensure that you don’t zone out or miss any important information.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you’ve been understood. While you don’t have to blatantly accuse employees of not paying attention, asking for their opinions on certain details will usually reveal whether they’re keeping up. Given the importance of communication in remote work, be prepared to come down a bit harder on employees who don’t take communication seriously.
Stay Up to Date
- Every remote worker or team should submit progress reports on a regular basis. This means a bit more paperwork (or its digital equivalent), but it’s very important. Read through the reports and compare them to where other teams within the company are. These progress reports will give you an idea as to whether the team is really focused on their task or if they’re just enjoying their time away from the office.
- If progress is slow without a good reason, don’t be afraid to hold people accountable for it. While their work situation is a bit different than your standard employee, they’re still being paid for the work they do and are expected to complete it in a reasonable amount of time.
If there’s a problem with this, your remote teams need to either find a solution to that problem or you’ll be forced to find someone else who can.
- Working remotely can be difficult, especially for workers with families afoot. There are a lot of distractions that surround you when you’re away from the office, and very few social interactions beyond the people who live in the same house as the worker. Add in the overlap that can occur between “work time” and “personal time” and you’ve got a recipe for stress and overload.
- Combat these challenges by giving additional downtime to remote teams between assignments. Tell remote workers to not answer work emails or other correspondence during their personal time, and let them know that you fully support them being unavailable when they’re off the clock. It may seem like a little thing, but little things add up. In this case, they can add up to remote team members who are more on task and ready to get the job done.