6 Golden Rules for Managing Remote Employees




  • Remote work isn’t going anywhere, in fact it’s growing. According to Upwork’s Future Workforce report, in the next decade 73% of all teams will have remote workers. The road to entirely remote companies has been paved by companies like Buffer, Hotjar, InVision and Gitlab.

    With partially or fully distributed teams on the rise, it’s important to follow these 6 basic rules when managing remote employees.

    1. Don’t forget about them

    If you’re a partially distributed team, spend extra time making sure you’re including your remote team members. Don’t unintentionally penalize your remote employees by not inviting them into conversations they should be a part of, because it might take more time and coordination to involve them.

    Pro tip: Assign someone on your team to be responsible for ensuring remote teams are involved in meetings.

    2. Make sure they know communication is a part of your job and theirs

    Katie Womersley, VP Engineering at Buffer, said it best when talking about what she would have told her younger self about being a remote manager:

    I think I would tell myself that the work I did to keep my team informed and to be very communicative was my job and was my work. That was something that would often stress me out a lot because I had this idea of, well I need to code for 8 hours. And then all of the time that it takes to keep my team informed, to keep Jira tickets up to date, to send screenshots of my work, put things on dev service, I would then do that like in the after hours. I didn’t realize that was sort of part of the job. So, it was incredibly stressful.

    I didn’t realize like, when were you supposed to do this communicating? So, I think if I were to go back in time, I would say, “That is the job, if you’re a remote employee, communicating really well with your team.” They should never wonder what’s going on with you.

    Like if they ever get that inkling, like, “Hey, I wonder what’s up with Katie? What is she working on? What’s Happening?” You’ve got a communication breakdown.

    Communication is a huge part of both manager’s and report’s responsibility. Without the luxury of face-to-face communication, written and video communications have to step up. Work on these, give feedback on communication skills and define the ways you want your team to communicate.

    3. Get your tech stack in order

    Managing remote employees you’ll need at bare minimum, these 5 tools in your tech stack:

    • A way to see your team (Zoom, BlueJeans)
    • A way to manage meetings with your team (SoapBox, Minute)
    • A way to communicate urgent or quick things with your team (Slack, Google chat)
    • A way to communicate longer, not-so-urgent things with a record (Email, Trello)
    • A way to manage work for your team (Asana, Jira)

    Select the tools that your team likes to work with and that integrate best into your existing workflows. Make sure the entire team has the proper logins and knows what each tool is used for.

    4. Build a remote team culture

    Maybe the hardest of the golden rules is building a remote team culture. There’s extra effort you’ll have to put in here to make sure there are ways your team can collaborate that aren’t just about the work. Here are a few different ways you can build a culture:

    • Virtual coffees
    • Co-working spaces
    • Quarterly or annual offsites
    • Virtual team socials
    • Meetups for workers in the same cities
    • Slack groups

    Loneliness is the second biggest challenge that remote workers face. Fostering a sense of culture and inclusiveness for remote teams is so important to keeping employees happy and motivated.

    5. Master your meetings

    Meetings are a crucial part of managing remote employees, because it’s often the only time your team will actually see you. When you have a remote team, put extra time into making sure these are run smoothly and effectively.

    • Ensure your on-site and remote teams can contribute to the agenda before the meeting.
    • Pad every meeting with 5 minutes at the start to get connected.
    • Set ground rules for behavior during the meeting, i.e. everyone shows their face, put yourself on DND during the meeting, mute yourself while you’re not speaking, etc.
    • Always send a record of what was discussed and any action items that need to be tackled beforehand.

    6. Provide growth and development opportunities

    Every employee should have growth and development opportunities whether that means progressing within the company or outside of it. 23% of remote workers fear that working remotely will impact their career progression. Make sure that’s not the case on your team. As a manager, it’s your job to make sure they’re working towards something.

    Remote work is here to stay, whether it’s you that’s remote, your direct reports, or everyone on the team. So, it’s time to sharpen up your remote management skills to make sure that everyone on your team, including yourself, is set up for success!

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