8 Key Tips for Managing Remote Employees
December 14, 2018

by Melanie Rivera, The Management Center

Managing people who don’t work out of the same office as you–whether they’re staff members in a satellite office or working from home–takes special effort to do well. The Management Center recently led a webinar for PIE Network advocates to share best practices for managing remote employees. Here are the highlights (and a few bonus tips):

  1. Manage well overall: To manage remote employees well, do what you’d typically do to manage effectively, but do it with more intention, with a special attention to building trust and communicating even more explicitly than you typically would. For example, clear role descriptions and concrete goals to measure against are even more important when managing remote staff.
  2. Embrace video to enhance communications: Email, and even phone calls, aren’t great for building relationships with remote employees. For tricky communications issues or longer conversations, default to video calls, if possible.
  3. Observe the “3-emails rule”: If three back-and-forth emails hasn’t resolved an issue, it’s time to pick up the phone and talk it through (but if it’ll take longer than 15 minutes, refer to tip #1 and use video!).
  4. Work hard(er) to connect personally: Anticipate that it will be harder to build a relationship with a staff member you don’t see every day. Take care that in every check-in or conversation longer than a few minutes, you’re connecting personally around a shared interest, updates in their life, or even small talk.
  5. Watch for bias: It’s easy for managers to inaccurately evaluate remote employees, because they don’t often observe them in action. This can show up as a halo that inflates their performance, or assuming the worst when they fall short. To prevent this, use standard check-in documents and delegation practices across your team–regardless of whether someone works remotely.
  6. Keep the feedback coming: Remote employees, especially those whose managers don’t have direct visibility into their day-to-day work, tell us that it’s sometimes hard to read how well they’re doing. Create space in your check-ins to both give and receive feedback to allay their concerns, and give and get concrete ways to make your working relationship stronger.
  7. Find ways to see them in action: When possible, find ways to see them do their job in order to provide even more actionable feedback. This could include shadowing them on a call or in a meeting, editing a document together in real time, or other creative ways to see them perform in the moment.
  8. Invest in them, especially if they’re great: We can’t assume that remote employees are happy, especially given that they may have fewer connections on the team and less access to the informal team-building that happens in the office. If you have a superstar on your team that works remotely, help them make connections, advocate for them, pair them with mentors and check in frequently to ensure you retain them long-term.

Managing remote employees is sometimes more work, but it’s certainly worth it–especially if a remote work arrangement allows you to keep a great employee, or allows your team member to better deliver on their role and contribute to your mission. For additional tools to become an even more effective manager, check out our resource library at ManagementCenter.org.

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    Melanie Rivera

    Melanie Rivera is Vice President at The Management Center


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