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5 Tips For Successfully Managing Remote Employees

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

It’s #WorkFromAnywhere Week (thanks for the head’s up, Career Contessa), which is as good a time as any to talk about remote work.

In this business, I spend a lot of time talking with leaders and hiring managers about the future of work. And for so many of them, enabling and managing a remote workforce is a big, scary unknown.

But here’s the thing: Remote work isn’t scary. And it isn’t any different than on-site work. The same management principles apply in the office and remotely—they're just heightened with a remote workforce. I’ll dig into why. But first, the data:

Remote work is on the rise. It’s grown 91% in the last 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years. As of 2019, nearly 70% of companies allow remote work and 16% are fully remote. In fact, 75% of all highly-skilled freelancers already work remotely. (75%!) And 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Gone are the days of the 9-5 sitting at your desk and having your manager hover over you. What has emerged is a fluid culture, one that embraces flexibility and favors the self disciplined, with perks for both employers and employees.

We all know why people want to work remotely. They’re tired of wasting time commuting, want to lower their carbon footprint, desire flexibility to fit it all in, all enabled by great technology tools to “feel” like you are in the office.

Every manager I talk to wants access to the best talent and increasingly the best talent demands flexible, high impact work. It’s a win-win!

I built my business because of my personal desire to work mostly remote in 2006. Since then, it’s proven to be more than a passing trend: Employers must embrace the remote workforce or be left in the dust.

My Remote Journey

13 years ago, I left my job at Microsoft after the birth of my second son. I still wanted to do impactful work, but I wanted the flexibility to spend meaningful time with my family. I was tired of traditional office hours and spending time in airports with my breast pump in tow.

I found that not only did I like working remotely, I loved it! I was more productive and focused. I didn’t have to waste time fighting traffic. And I was able to balance my time and priorities in a way that worked for me and my family. And my clients loved my work because my only focus was solving their big problem. I didn’t have the day to day distractions and meetings all day like they did. I loved being their secret weapon and providing plans and strategies to drive their business.

Over the years, I’ve talked to so many women who have the same story. And that’s what our business model is based on: enabling talented professionals to work (mostly) remotely while helping managers get business-critical work done. I love that we can help people work however they want without compromising on quality.

More The Same Than Different

At the Geekwire Summit this week, Auth0 CEO Eugenio Pace was asked about maintaining culture and managing his mostly remote workforce. He answered that it’s largely the same as a traditional office culture—remote work simply surfaces problems that can remain hidden in a typical face-to-face environment. What becomes of utmost importance in a remote environment is clear, deliberate communication of goals and tasks and a bias toward hiring people who don’t just diagnose problems, but present solutions, too.

I couldn’t agree more.

In my years of experience enabling marketing and sales leaders with remote employees, I’ve learned a lot about making remote work work. And the bottom line is this: It’s not scary or a completely new way of doing business.

Remote work is still just work. It’s about business goals and people. And it’s grounded in setting clear expectations and rules of engagement at the onset.

Best practices for managing a remote workforce

If these sound like just being a good manager—they are! However, these best practices are even more important when dealing with remote workers.

  1. Set clear, measurable deliverables & success metrics. Like any successful project or team, start by defining success. Ask yourself:
    • What does success look like?
    • Are there clearly defined metrics that we can be measuring against (quantitative or qualitative)?
    • How do these metrics align with client and/or team accountabilities?
    • What are some of the upcoming key deliverables and milestones that must be met?
  2. Set everyone up for success by establishing the ground rules.
    • Establish communication preferences. Identify and communicate your preferred communication style and method (e.g., direct/open, formal/informal, email, Slack, IM, text, etc.).
    • Set working hours. Or don’t. Get clear on what works for you and your team. Do you want to mirror in-office working hours or allow for more flexible schedules? What’s the expectation of when remote workers should be online and available? Whatever you decide, focus more on the results of the work than time on tasks.
  3. Schedule regular touchpoints. Set a weekly team sync, even if it’s just 15 minutes. If you want a recurring 1:1 with your reports, get it on the books and include a rough agenda to make the best use of the time. Have employees provide a weekly status report every Friday with updates on the goals you defined together. This makes performance management easy because you will know very quickly if the goals are being met.
  4. Enable anywhere collaboration & communication with cloud-based tools. We use Microosft O365 which is an amazing cloud-based tool for document sharing and collaboration, meetings, and chat. Ensure that remote employees are aware of and have access to all the same resources as their on-site counterparts. And I highly recommended using video calls whenever possible. It encourages team members to fully engage in the meeting and builds rapport.
  5. Face to face still matters. Technology is incredible, but nothing fully replaces in person interaction.
    • If possible, build in f2f time as part of the onboarding process. Arrange team building opportunities for new members to bond. It's much easier to work over Zoom or Teams when you’ve established a personal relationship.
    • Establish regular f2f events with the team. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to get your people together semi-regularly. This could be a QBR where everyone is present with a rotating location or organizing regional meet-ups and activities for a dispersed workforce.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

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