How to manage your employees remotely

We are now in our fifth week of lockdown, and so many of us are facing struggles in different size, shapes, and forms. For businesses, one of the major struggles is managing a remote workforce.

In response to the uncertainties presented by COVID-19, most of the companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely. While 50% of the workforce already used to work from home at least part of the time, the new policies leave 80 to 90% of all employees working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time. As a result, there are thousands of team leaders and managers who found themselves suddenly managing a completely remote team.

Due to lack of preparation because of rapidly changing circumstances, employees and managers experience certain challenges that make remote work demanding. This leads to a decline in job performance, employee engagement and productivity. Challenges integral in remote work and managing remote workforce include lack of face-to-face interaction or supervision, lack of access to information, lack of cohesion within the team, social isolation, and distractions at home.

In order to continue business as usual whilst managing employees who are working remotely, especially in the absence of preparation and training, we are here with a list of tips on how to set yourself up as a manager of a remote team.


1. Communicate Frequently

Since you and your team are working remotely, whenever possible, arrange for regular interactions, be one-on-one, and face-to-face via video. Phone conversations, emails, and messages go only so far. Your team needs to see you, and you need to see them. The good news is that services like Zoom, Skype, Slack, HipChat, Microsoft Team or Google’s Team Hangouts make this relatively easy. At first, establish a daily call with your team. Then, plan and schedule weekly, monthly, or annual interactions combined with knowledge sharing sessions, brainstorming sessions, online training, and coaching programs. The purpose is simple–set the agenda and provide the feedback and resources your team members need.


2. Manage Expectations

Be transparent with your team about your expectations. Explain what you want from your employees and when. Help your team figure out what they should do and create realistic expectations for their work. By the way, “managing expectations” applies to you as a manager as well. Set yourself and your team up for success by clearly stating both the tasks and the reasons behind them, and help your team understand exactly how you will measure success. That means defining the scope, deadlines, deliverables for each task or project your team is working on and having documented processes for the same. Tools such as Skitch to document processes, and Evernote or Google Docs to store them online can be used for such purposes. Links to all documentation as part of employee engagement can be sent to newly hired or the old ones during training sessions or along with communication guidelines.


3. Take advantage of Technology

As a manager, your job is to keep your team connected. Communication tools are a simple way to keep everyone engaged. While email and text messages might be a short-term solution, tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams are far better suited for collaboration and communication. Some of those collaboration tools are even available for free right now.

Other than communication channels, as a manager, you should also invest in reliable processes including software (such as Microsoft Teams) to improve team collaboration and then provide training to your team on the same. As a manager, you can rely on remote team management software to plan tasks, projects, and even people. With project management software, you can not only communicate but also track productivity, maintain timesheets, share information, and have discussions with your team, the best part is there are so many to choose from.


4. Be Flexible

As a manager, it is your responsibility to understand that, especially in the current environment, your team has a lot going on. You must reconsider what productivity really means. Punching a clock for eight hours as well as regular work hours are also probably out for many people. Instead, trust your team and give them the freedom and flexibility to get work done on the schedule that helps them be the most productive. That’s good for your team in the long run anyway.


ABL Recruitment team