Best Practices for Managing a Remote Workforce

Successfully managing remote employees can be challenging, especially for traditionally minded managers. Many business leaders are used to monitoring productivity based upon workers’ “desk time” and visible activity levels. However, remote workers can be just as productive, if not more so, than in-office employees. You just have to set them up for success. As always, the CFO Suite is here to help. Here are some strategies we’ve seen work:

Set clear expectations.
Your employees have to know what you need from them. Communicate the organization’s goals and help your team apply those goals to their every day work. Be intentional with the time you spend together in meetings – these are fantastic opportunities to get aligned with the mission, the values that truly matter, as well as the specific outcomes they’re committed to delivering.

Provide a solid infrastructure.
If remote employees can’t download files, share work product or communicate effectively, you have failed to address the basics. Invest in reliable tools to make collaboration possible. Then, develop clear processes to use such tools and hold the team accountable for doing so.

Establish structured, regular check-ins.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but in a remote environment, it’s important that your calls stay on the calendar and don’t get canceled. Schedule your 1:1s and small team calls to occur weekly. Your larger meetings could be monthly, or annually, and could be combined with a training or coaching program. This constant interaction and engagement will help remote workers feel included. Use both phone calls and video conferences so you can get that much needed face-to-face time.

Build a culture of trust and transparency.
You can build trust through individualization, keeping your promises and engaging in frequent conversations with your people (as we discussed above). Building lines of sight for the remote worker builds trust too. Knowing whom to turn to for help enhances productivity and aids in development, but remote workers may lack that perspective. You can support them by maintaining a solid presence in their network. Make yourself available and be as responsive as possible.

Use technology to build a sense of community.
Apps like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams can provide dedicated spaces for sharing best practices, asking questions, or even celebrating birthdays and company milestones. Being intentional about creating community helps develop a corporate culture that inspires connection. And connection drives productivity.

Check in along the way.
Ask your team what’s working for them…and what isn’t. Listen to employees’ concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Some remote workers feel isolated by working alone, while others feel liberated. Some love 24/7 access to work; others need to have a real boundary between office and home. Understanding your employees’ mindsets will help you appropriately coach each individual. This individualization helps remote workers “feel cared for as a person,” which is a fundamental element of engagement.

As you can see, communication and individualization are key to making this work. While it may not be initially apparent, managing a remote workforce is a great development opportunity for you too! It’s also a chance to shift your focus from what’s “getting done” to what you’re accomplishing. There’s a nuance there and you and your team can work together to find it. Good luck!