5 Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Employees

April 16, 2020
Woman sitting on the floor with a laptop on her lap, the faces of 6 people visible on her laptop on a video call while she manages her team remotely.

Working from home is no longer considered a perk or a new trend for companies to adopt. Rather, remote work has quickly become a necessary way of life to slow the transmission of coronavirus. As companies adapt to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, you may find yourself in a new position of remotely managing a team. 

Remote work has proven to be extremely effective in boosting employees’ productivity. However, it requires a high level of coordination and trust between supervisors and their employees. For many supervisors who have never managed a team remotely, it may seem a little scary at first to figure out a system that works best for you and your team. Follow these tips to improve team management and the remote version of employee engagement in the workplace. When done correctly, remote supervision can increase your team’s output — without raising your stress level. 

1. Set Expectations

The first step to building a successful remote operation is to set crystal clear expectations with your team members. By establishing the communication protocol and expectations around reporting, schedules, and deadlines, you ensure that everyone is on the same page from the beginning. 

When you establish clear expectations with your team members, you also have a chance to gain their buy-in by providing context and the reasoning behind your expectations. When you allow them to take part in building the new processes for remote work, you’re also providing them an opportunity to ask questions and time to adapt to the many changes that are sure to come with remote supervision.

It can also be useful to ask trusted team members for feedback on your processes. Something that you see as useful may be seen by the team as a waste of time. And likewise, something that you view as distracting may be central to your team. 

2. Hold Daily Scrum Meetings

daily Scrum meeting is an effective way to collaborate with your remote team. A Scrum meeting lasts for 15 minutes and is hyper-focused on synchronizing activities amongst team members. By the end of the Scrum meeting, you should have a plan for the next 24 hours until you meet at the next Scrum.  

To effectively lead a Scrum meeting, you, as the supervisor, will establish yourself as the Scrum Master. Your role is to keep things on task and facilitate quick decision-making. Scrum meetings are great for making progress towards specific goals and help eliminate unnecessary meetings. 

It’s important that these meetings do not last longer than 15 minutes at most. Any longer, and you risk wasting your team’s time purely for management purposes. It may take some time to ensure everyone is on the same page – sometimes employees can be particularly chatty and may need extra training and feedback to ensure the meetings run smoothly. 

3. Take Advantage of Tech

Luckily, there are plenty of great options for technology when it comes to remotely supervising a team. With video communication tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype, you can easily stay connected with your team. 

Many of your employees may find themselves feeling isolated and lonely as they transition to remote work. Rather than relying solely on email and text communication channels like Slack, schedule intentional video calls with your team to give them a chance to connect with one another and you. It can also help to hold team activities on a video chat; that way, your team gets a chance to relax and laugh together. 

It may also be helpful for you to implement time tracking software for your team. Time tracking software comes with the benefit of monitoring progress without having to micromanage your team. It will also help you evaluate how your team is using their time and whether you need to adjust priorities in order to meet your goals. 

However, time tracking software can be invasive, and in many cases, not accurately represent the work of your team. So carefully evaluate your team’s needs and your management needs before deciding.

4. Build a Routine and Stick to It 

Consistency is an essential part of maintaining productivity when working from home. By prioritizing regularly scheduled meetings and check-ins, you and your team will build a cadence together that enables everyone to work more effectively together. 

Many workers who find themselves working from home must now juggle a variety of new responsibilities such as childcare, online distance learning for children, and sharing office space with family members. As a team leader, be empathetic to your team’s needs and be as flexible as possible as they adapt to their new reality. Ask that they regularly update their availability, so you and the rest of the team know what to expect from one another. Don’t penalize your team for things they can’t control – such as young children needing attention during the day.

5. Assume Best Intentions and Build Trust

Remote work comes with many perks. No daily commute, the ability to wear more comfortable clothing, and getting to hang with your pets all day, just to name a few. However, unless you’re careful, remote work can also lead to crossed communication wires and misunderstandings. People have a tendency to communicate differently over text, and without context, it’s easy to misinterpret what others are saying. 

To circumvent any misinterpretations, encourage your team to ask questions and assume the best with one another. As a supervisor, it may be easy to think that a team member could be slacking off or not working as hard. However, rather than point fingers, it’s best to approach these issues with an open mind. By giving your team members a little grace as they adjust to remote work, you’ll establish an open channel of trust between you and them. 

One way to build trust is to ensure your employees have an open line of communication with you. Not just an “open door policy” – which sounds good in theory, but employees may not utilize it. If possible, schedule time with your employees to let them give you feedback directly, and just check-in. For larger teams, this can be broken down by manager. This ensures direct report employees speak to their managers, and you speak to the managers to ensure you have a pulse on the team as a whole. But that way, you ensure you’re in touch with your employees, and they can talk to you about any issues or frustrations they may have.

As a supervisor, your team looks to you for leadership, especially with all the uncertainty around coronavirus. By following these tips and taking a proactive approach to remote supervision, you’re setting your team and yourself up for the best chance of success. 

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. 1-800Accountant assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.