Managing Remote Employees: 3 Steps to Improving Communication

The latest Gallup analysis is in, and it tells a rather interesting story for those managing remote employees.

The State of the American Workplace study is filled with insights that indicate the benefits of remote work may be even greater than previously reported.

“Gallup consistently has found that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Employees who spend at least some time working remotely are a bit more likely to be engaged in their jobs than those who never work remotely,” they added.

The report wasn’t all good news though. While engagement levels were high among workers who spend some time working remotely, the opposite was true of those who work remotely 100% of the time.

That divide may help explain why some employees choose to work remotely and then change their minds. Or why remote managers have been known to relocate to company headquarters.

Sometimes, those transitions may be necessary. In many situations, it’s more a matter of miscommunication.

It’s one thing to deal with missed deadlines, misalignment of goals and misdirected priorities when you see employees in person. But what happens when the flexibility of remote employees lead to those same challenges? They fly under the radar for months before they’re noticed, let alone addressed.

Despite all the recent excitement over remote work, things can go wrong. To succeed at managing remote teams, you have to consider all factors. Below are three concrete ways you can do just that.

Prevent a Culture of Disengagement at All Costs

When was the last time you sat down at the same table as an off-site team member? If it’s been awhile, you may want to rethink how frequently you need to include travel into your plans for managing remote employees.

Only 30% of full-time remote employees told Gallup they feel engaged with work. That’s the same percentage reported by employees who spend all of their time at an office desk located next to coworkers.

Employees who spend three or four days a week working remotely were the most likely to report having a best friend at work. They also feel confident in opportunities for professional growth.

Researchers theorized that feeling stuck in one place has negative effects on workers—regardless of where that place is.

Granted, planning a weekly trip may not be feasible when remote employees are truly remote. But a monthly or quarterly in-person session can go a long way in fostering greater communication and collaboration.

Identify Potential Misunderstandings Before They Surface

For some people, working remotely is an excellent way to increase productivity and output. This is often true for quiet thinkers who thrive in solitude and are most creative in non-office environments that minimize distractions.

Not so for those who draw energy from group activities and frequent conversations. For this type of employee, working remotely can become a handicap. While the first group can feel productive and happy for days on end with limited interaction; the second will quickly begin to feel disengaged.

When it comes to adapting your leadership style to different personalities, there’s only one reliable way to figure out the needs of each employee: You have to ask them. That’s why every manager should hold regular one-on-one meetings with each member of the team.

When Managing Remote Employees Be Sure They Have Inspiring Goals

A goal here, a deadline there…when you’re working remotely, different objectives can often start to blend together.

(To be fair, this is often true even when everyone’s working in the same location.)

Studies show that only half of the managers have mastered the art of working with employees to set appropriate goals. And without a continual reminder of the purpose behind their work, people will often prioritize daily tasks over big-picture objectives.

Even when effective goals are set, employees will struggle to factor them into day-to-day work unless there’s a process to keep them front and center. This challenge can be magnified with remote workforces, where employees rely on digital communication for important updates and reminders.

This is where the OKRs system can be highly influential, whether you’re managing remote employees, on-site workers or both.

Managing remote teams comes with its own set of unique challenges, and these will continue to grow as the number of people working remotely continues to rise.

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