As our world becomes more connected than ever, for many of us, the workplace is no longer confined to a single office building. Many organizations now hire workers hundreds or thousands of miles away from their headquarters and while it has been shown that remote employees can be just as productive as those in the office, this modern structure creates new challenges for managers.
If you are struggling to connect with – and get the greatest results from – your remote employees, remember these tips.
Use video calls when possible
If all of your communication with remote employees is by phone or email, it can be difficult to make a human connection. While not quite as powerful as being in the same room, integrating more facetime via video calling can help build that essential bond.
Just as in a traditional office setting, not every interaction needs to be face-to-face. But for a team meeting, or if you expect a long discussion, consider using a video call. Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber are all great apps that offer free video calling. Video calls also increase effective communication because they include facial expressions and body language as cues in the conversation. That’s why email can be so easily misinterpreted. Without hearing tone of voice or seeing facial expressions, a comment intended as funny could come across as sarcastic or rude.
If the only thing you talked about with your employees was work, it’s unlikely they’d feel much connection to your organization other than their paycheck. Remote employees want and need to connect with co-workers just as much as traditional ones, but this can be difficult when they are working in isolation.
A remote worker typically won’t call his or her supervisor just to chat, which is why it’s the manager’s responsibility to put forth the effort to connect. Next time you call to ask a question, don’t just hang up immediately once you’ve gotten the information you need. Ask how he or she has been doing. Maybe set up a time to chat over a long-distance lunch. Once remote employees see that you want to connect and know them as people as well as employees, it’s likely they’ll to do the same.
Remember they have goals
In addition to being their supervisor, a great manager serves a mentor to his or her employees. Your employees want to grow professionally and they’ll be looking to you for guidance on how to do so. Don’t forget that your employee a few states over wants just as much coaching as the one down the hall.
When new opportunities come around, remote employees may often be the last to be considered. Some leadership positions require that the individual be in the office, but that doesn’t rule out qualified remote workers for the role. If the opportunity presented to them is valuable enough, they may be willing to move, or at least make arrangements to be physically present in the office on a regular schedule.
Make expectations clear
While some employers fear that remote workers will take advantage of them and work less than they are expected to, the opposite is actually true – they have a greater tendency to work too much. Because they work, live, and sleep in the same environment, it can be difficult for them to draw a distinct line between their work and home life. Clearly defining expectations gives remote employees the guidance they need to achieve the best results and still have the same kind of separation and work-life balance that workers in the office have.
The key to being a great manager for remote employees is to make your relationship with them as similar as possible to that of the in-house employees you supervise. Building relationships, coaching and clear expectations are all part of a strong manager-employee relationship but can be easily overlooked when the two don’t work in the same building. Applying these practices to your remote work relationships can result in increased productivity, job satisfaction, and even lower turnover from your long-distance workers. That, combined with the ability to hire talented employees from a much larger geographical pool, makes remote working arrangements a win-win for both employer and employee.
For more information on a remote workforce, contact Carrie Cox using her information below.
Senior Organizational Development Consultant
Organizational Development & Family Business Services
Carrie has experience in a variety of human resource functions, including labor laws, compensation structures, employee classification, benefits administration, performance management, and human resource best practices. She has served clients in a number of industries including manufacturing, construction, banking, and not-for-profits. Carrie is a member of the national and local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) and serves on the Wichita chapter board of directors.
She is a certified practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. Her additional certifications include Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the Human Resource Certification Institute and SHRM-CP designated by the Society for Human Resource Management.