Leading Employees From a Distance

  • March 31, 2015


    More employees are working remotely now than ever before. For many, the virtual workplace helps to create a better work-life balance. However, the isolation of working remotely can often lead to employees feeling that their work is less valued or overlooked.

    Keeping remote employees engaged is essential in a virtual workplace. Keep these tips in mind when leading or managing employees from a distance.

    Organization is key.

    When leading remote employees, managers must make sure that employees are on the same page at all times. Regular meetings can help all parties involved keep track of their assignments and due dates. Deborah Mitchell, via Entrepreneur.com, suggests preparing a daily or weekly written plan that outlines expectations for each team member.

    “This way, everyone can keep track of their assignments,” said Mitchell. “Since employees are working from different locations, use a project management system to keep everyone in touch.”

    Don’t just stick to email.

    A lack of face-to-face communication with upper management and other team members can be challenging for remote workers. Because of this, it is important that leaders make time for all types of communication, not just email. Employees can miss important facial expressions and voice tones when communicating through email. Video conferencing is a great way to humanize virtual office communication.

    Making time for regular phone calls is also important. Vital information can be easily lost in translation through email. Deborah Mitchell explains why phone calls can help clear up any possible email confusion.

    “A busy manager may reply to an email with “that’s OK,” and the virtual employee might read the answer and interpret the communication in the wrong way,” said Mitchell. “A phone call allows everyone to hear what is being said and clear up any unresolved issues.”

    Recognize team member contributions.

    Recognition of an employee’s good work is an important part of employee engagement, but it often gets overlooked when mangers and leaders don’t see their employees in person. Taking the time to recognize workers in team meetings or weekly emails can be beneficial. Darleen DeRosa has advice for making remote workers feel appreciated in a recent article on Business2Community.com.

    “Make an effort to periodically send e-cards, online certificates or social media shout-outs to team members who have made significant accomplishments,” said DeRosa. “You can also implement a rewards program that allows employees to select a gift online when they reach a certain milestone, such as a birthday or work anniversary.”

    Be aware of employees’ expectations.

    With less face-to-face interaction in a virtual workplace, it is important to check in with remote employees periodically to ensure that they are meeting their goals. It can be more difficult for remote workers to see where their career path can take them inside their organization. Deborah Mitchell offers advice for managing remote employees’ expectations, via Entrepreneur.

    “Similar to working in a traditional office, a virtual office should offer an employee the opportunity to grow,” said Mitchell. “Be clear and know what you have to offer them moving forward.”

    Leading remote employees requires a give and take relationship. The virtual workplace is a growing trend that employers can no longer ignore.

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