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December 7, 2018

Leading Remote Employees

If you’re like many managers, some of your staff are virtual, working from remote locations that may not be easily accessible for in-person communication or hands-on management. Data from Global Workplace Analytics show that the number of employees working from home has grown by 140% since 2005. A 2017 Gallup study reported that 43% of Americans spend at least some time working remotely—either at home or at distant locations. Even if you don’t currently have remote employees, it’s probable that you will in the not-too-distant future. As Boomers leave, their ranks will be filled with Generations X, Y, and Z—employees who value work-life balance. This means that flexibility will become the new norm. Here are some guidelines for managing remote employees.

  • Set performance expectations. Both you and the employee must clearly understand what needs to be delivered, how results will be measured, and how much authority they have to make decisions.
  • Empower employees.Show that you trust them to produce results by letting them act independently and providing resources and support, as needed.
  • Establish lines of communication.Based on your company’s policies regarding virtual communication, privacy, and confidentiality, consider texting for quick communication and questions. Outlook rules and Gmail filters let you set up inboxes for remote staff that bypass the regular email inbox.
  • Brush up your virtual meeting management skills. Set up regular check-in meetings with remote staff and send an agenda before the meeting that includes topics, speakers, and allotted time. Make sure the technology you are using works on remote desktops. Ask participants to mute their speakers to eliminate random background noise and have everyone identify themselves before they speak.
  • Recognize and reward. Since remote employees often feel disenfranchised from their peers in the office, it’s important to make them feel valued and important. Make sure you recognize accomplishments and freely pass out rewards to remote staff. When promotional opportunities arise, look beyond the staff in front of you to those working at a distance.

Don’t let remote staff stay gone too long. Regularly bring them in to meet in person and to strengthen team bonds. This helps you deepen your relationship with them, lets you see how they are developing, and shows you what they need to continue to excel.


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