Due to the increase in new technologies, more and more companies are starting to manage remotely (consultants working in their clients’ premises, colleagues working at other sites, abroad or from home). In 2017, over 3.7 million employees (or 2.8% of the entire U.S. workforce) worked from home at least half the time. This management method raises the question: how to effectively manage employees remotely?
Manage remotely: use adapted tools
Managing employees remotely involves the use of communication tools: telephone (phone calls, SMS), internet (e-mail, messaging, videoconference, intranet), shared calendars, etc. These various tools make it possible to bridge the gap by communicating with employees in instantaneous ways. Collaborative tools are also very popular for exchanging files and information on the company and are an advantage when you manage remotely.
However, it is important to remain wary about using these technologies. It is also necessary to know how to choose the adapted tool according to the message to communicate: for example, a phone call suggests more urgency than an e-mail and an SMS is reserved for simple and short requests which do not need an explanation.
Manage remotely: learn to trust
Trusting your employees is the first way to manage remotely. Assuming it is impossible to know everything your employee does, you have to learn to trust without control. Too much control on your part could be perceived as policing on the part of your employee and have an impact on your working relationship. According to a study conducted in 2013, 78% of business executives doubt the efficiency of their employees when working remotely, but this drops to only 41% after they have practiced remote working.
Manage remotely: keep in constant contact
Trusting one's employees does not mean abandoning them. It is important to know how to structure the relationship through constant communication. Regular updates allow you to set goals for your employees and debriefings are useful for monitoring the progress of their work. This will facilitate things when you manage remotely.
On the other hand, it is up to the manager to maintain the relationship with his teams when he manages them remotely. This requires staying available, for example reserving specific times – i.e. weekly meetings - to communicate with employees. Regular feedback is essential for ensuring projects are running smoothly and to check that the employee is not overwhelmed by the task or in need of assistance and too afraid to ask for help. As a result, there should be regular telephone communication outside of the weekly meetings, in order to resolve any problems that may arise when you manage remotely.
Manage remotely: pay attention to your employees
A manager must know how to pay attention to his employees outside of the working relationship when he manages remotely. For example, a simple SMS sent when someone returns from vacation to ask how it went reminds the person that he is not isolated. We follow these basic rules of etiquette when we work alongside our colleagues but we can easily forget to do this when we manage them remotely. Regular contact such as this allows employees to feel part of the company.
It is also essential to maintain a team spirit when we manage remotely, which is a major challenge when certain members of the team are rarely seen. To achieve this, the manager can set up a meeting when a new mission or contract starts, which will unite the various employees involved. It can also give employees the chance to think about and discuss the mission together, in order to bring them closer in their work.
These methods are next to none when you manage remotely and will be practiced more and more and we will see an even bigger increase in remote working. After all, the number of employers offering a remote working option is growing and this may be, in part, down to the fact that managers who offer this option to employees report that they are generally more productive.