The Best Policies for Managing Remote Employees

Working remotely isn’t new, but ever since the onset of COVID-19, it has become increasingly normalized. And, according to some HR experts, that’s unlikely to change any time soon. According to a recent Gartner survey, 90 percent of HR professionals say their employees will continue to be allowed to work remotely, even after COVID vaccinations are widely available.

As such, managing remote teams is a skill that leaders need to invest in. Here are a few guidelines and best practices.

How to Manage Remote Employees

1) Equip your employees.

Being able to remain productive and efficient while working remotely requires employees to have the right IT setup. This means having a good computer and laptop, of course, but it may also mean having a decent camera, up-to-date anti-virus software, and more. Be willing to invest in the right tech for your team members; and, be ready to devote your IT team’s resources to assisting employees who need to be coached through their home office setup.

2) Be alert to signs of burnout, depression, and anxiety.

When your employees work remotely, it’s that much harder for you to identify the warning signs of mental illness. Learn about some of the signs and symptoms you need to be aware of; we have a couple of posts that can help you out. Additionally, be intentional in checking in with your employees one-on-one, asking how they are doing and letting them know you want to support them however possible.

3) Don’t micromanage.

When managers can no longer see their employees hard at work in the office, the temptation is to start breathing over their shoulder and scrutinizing every last thing they are doing. Remember to trust your employees until given reason not to; after all, you hired them to do a job, so give them space to do it. Do maintain regular check-ins and performance reviews, but resist the urge to micromanage, which will only cause frustration and stress.

4) Create opportunities for dialogue.

One of the best ways to keep your remote workers engaged is to invite them into regular dialogue. You can do this in a number of ways, such as by offering virtual “office hours” on Skype or Zoom, or simply having an “open door policy” where folks can call you as needed. Just be sure your employees know when and how they can reach you for one-on-ones.

5) Emphasize objectives.

Whether in your one-on-ones or through virtual team huddles, be sure you point your employees back to the vision, values, and mission of your company. And, provide each employee with a sense of how their unique role contributes to team objectives. By showing your employees that their work matters and that they are part of something bigger, you can help them stave off isolation.

6) Allow flexibility.

When managing remote employees, it’s generally best to focus on output, not necessarily on processes. Remember that your employees are balancing their professional responsibilities with family needs, which can be a tough balancing act. So, if one employee needs to start work 15 minutes late so they can get their kids set up with virtual learning, try to be flexible: Focus on what your employees are getting done, not necessarily how they’re doing it.

More Questions About Employee Management?

Remote work poses some challenges, but also some unique opportunities for your team to embrace innovation, independence, and flexibility. If you have any additional questions or comments, we’d love to hear them! Reach out to WhiteWater Consulting at your next opportunity.

Employee Engagement in the Remote Work Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous disruptions to the workforce. Many employees continue working from home, where they’ve been forced to adapt to new workflows and daily routines. On top of that, bad news about the pandemic, the economy, and the state of our politics has made it increasingly difficult to focus on everyday work matters.

The upshot of all of this is that far too many employees say they are either somewhat or completely disengaged from their work. (A Gallup poll, taken over the summer, puts the number at around 68 percent.) This is unwelcome news for many reasons, but foremost among them is this: It suggests that most employees are doing something less than their best work.

Employee Engagement: A Review

Before we go much further, it may be worth a brief review of what employee engagement is, and why it matters.

When we talk about whether or not employees are engaged, we’re not necessarily talking about whether they’re satisfied, or whether they’re happy. Those are very different metrics, and may be worth measuring. But when it comes to employee engagement, we’re referring to the employee’s level of commitment to the company and to the work they’ve been tasked with completing. A fully engaged employee works not just to get their paycheck, but to help the company flourish and the team achieve its goals.

Engaged employees put forth more effort and make more significant contributions in each aspect of their work; thus, companies with higher levels of engagement tend to deliver higher-quality products and services; they tend to be more efficient, and; they tend to be more profitable.

The Makings of Employee Engagement

As we think about the state of employee engagement in 2020, it’s important to consider each of the elements involved.

The most significant element is belonging. The most engaged employees usually feel as though they are an important part of the team, and that their individual role contributes something to the big picture.

Some additional aspects of employee engagement include:

  • Open lines of communication and transparency from leadership
  • Regular opportunities to give and receive feedback
  • Autonomy (e.g., no micromanaging)
  • Clearly-defined goals
  • Opportunities to learn, grow, and advance

Any endeavor to increase employee engagement needs to carefully weigh each of these factors.

Engaging Remote Employees

Given the importance of employee engagement, and remote work as the “new normal,” it’s crucial for all leaders to rethink their employee engagement strategy. A few general tips and considerations:

  1. Schedule regular meetings. If team members don’t have regular opportunities to meet and to connect with one another, preferably in a group setting, they’re more likely to lose that sense of belonging. Make sure you’re either holding small team meetings or company-wide meetings via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or some similar platform.
  2. Encourage collaboration. Employees who are more reserved or introverted may be less likely to participate in big, boisterous meetings. Make sure you also develop smaller teams or partnerships, tasking each with working together on a project or a brainstorming session.
  3. Provide office hours. Leaders need to be accessible to their employees. Let team members know a chunk of each day (maybe an hour or two) when you are available to chat with them via phone, Skype, or Zoom, as needed. Just make sure you’re providing everyone an opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns.
  4. Recognize success. Be private in your criticisms, but public in your praise. When employees go above and beyond, or complete a significant project, make sure you recognize them before the group. This could be as simple as sending out a company-wide email.
  5. Check in. Finally, make sure you’re making the effort to reach out and check in with employees one-on-one. Showing that you care about them and their success within the company can go a long way toward fostering greater engagement.

As you consider your options for building an engaged team in the remote work era, these tips should be helpful. If you would like additional information on ways to assess and enhance employee engagement or if you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to WhiteWater Consulting directly. We look forward to hearing from you!