How to Effectively Manage Remote and Office Work Environments

  1. Establish Clear Expectations – miscommunication and misunderstandings are far more likely to occur when there are no face-to-face conversations with employees. Let them know how often to check in, whether they need to touch base before they end their workday and if they should track their time. Be sure that deadlines are clearly stated for time-sensitive projects. While some leaders expect updates from each team member on a daily basis, others may be satisfied with a weekly or monthly briefing. Letting your team know what you want upfront, will insure there is alignment.  Provide examples of what you expect, a comprehensive brief, and solid deadlines.
  2. Engage as Often as Possible – use multiple channels to communicate with them and plan regular, scheduled, face-to-face conference calls or physical meetings. Continual interactions help to insure that employees feel included, important, and engaged. This will avoid employee turnover.
  3. Utilize video-conferencing for coaching – emails, phone calls and instant messaging can lead to miscommunications. The best way to communicate (when face-to-face isn’t an option) is through video conferencing.
  4. Schedule Regular Team Meetings – Whether the workforce is partially or fully remote, it’s essential to set up regular group meetings, live virtual events and team building activities to foster a sense of unity and help employees bond. Assign different team members to lead these meetings. This will insure they are engaged and allow each of their styles to shine. These meetings can help employees get to know each other, build connections and feel more inclined to cooperate and communicate with each other on a regular basis.
  5. Use Technology To Overcome Geographic Boundaries – Chat and team collaboration tools (e.g., Slack), video conferencing software (Teams, Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting and others) screen sharing tools, project management systems to keep track of important tasks, time tracking apps and more must be  leveraged to build a community. Use technology for face-to-face interactions and create spaces — such as separate instant messenger channels or online forums —where employees can discuss non-work related topics during breaks. Another idea is to create a remote version of anything done locally. For example, be sure to continue “in-office traditions” of singing “Happy Birthday” to employees.
  6. Don’t Exclude Remote Employees – When employees work in an office setting together, conversations happen organically. “Watercooler” chats can turn into critical conversations where team members share crucial information. When these conversations develop, be sure to pass along the message to your remote employees as quickly as possible.
  7. Don’t Micromanage –  Part of the appeal of remote work for employees is the autonomy. But it’s easy to assume they’re not working or sticking to assigned tasks. This can quickly develop into micromanaging behavior where leaders bombard remote workers with communications and continuously ask for progress reports. Micromanaging remote employees can be stressful for both parties and make employees feel like they’re not trusted to do their work. Focus instead on outcomes and goals rather than visible activity and hours worked. As long as the employee is getting their work done well and on time, their work style may be irrelevant. At the same time, it’s important that remote employees aren’t taking advantage of their autonomy by wasting time and ignoring their workload. Some employees may not have the self-discipline for remote work, and it’s critical you recognize this behavior quickly before it affects team productivity.
  8. Ask for feedback – On calls be sure to solicit employees opinions and “check-in” to see how they feel about work. Also, send employees short surveys periodically to gauge how remote employees feel about their work environment.
  9. Create an “Open Door” Policy  – Remote employees may feel they are intruding if they contact their manager outside of scheduled meeting times. This is especially true if they work in different time zones. To prevent this, create an “open-door” policy for remote and non-remote employees with specific blocks of time each week or any time if possible.
  10. There Is No Such Thing as too Much Communication  – make sure employees know that two way communication is encouraged.

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