20 Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees and Getting the Best Out of Them

By Arnab Bannerjee Oct 29, 2022
20 Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees and Getting the Best Out of Them

We already know how Covid-19 disrupted the way we live life or do business. Amongst other things, it made businesses adopt the idea of remote working. But, the pandemic was not the starting point for remote work as many believe. According to Forbes, even before the arrival of the pandemic, about a quarter of the US workforce worked remotely for some portion of the time.

But, the pandemic arrived and polarized remote working like never before. While many organizations were deft at managing remote employees, several others struggled. Often, the strugglers consoled themselves with the belief that remote working is only a passing fad. If you too belong to the same club, we are sorry to say that numbers tell a different story.

McKinsey estimates that 20-25% of the workforce in advanced economies could continue to work from home even after the pandemic is over. So, businesses have to learn the tricks of managing remote employees to succeed. This article will answer your questions on how to manage remote workers and a remote team. But, let’s first clear out the confusion between outsourcing and remote workers.

How are Remote Workers Different from Outsourcing?

At Virtual Employee, a staffing platform, we regularly come across potential clients who have the natural confusion between outsourcing and remote workers.Often, these two terms are used interchangeably and this has given rise to a certain level of ambiguity. It must be clarified that whilst lines do blur at times, the two are functionally different, although the concept of remote workers can be called an offshoot of outsourcing at large.

The biggest difference between outsourcing and engaging remote workers is management and the scope of involvement. While outsourcing generally means engaging the services of an independent third party contractor/vendor or freelancer/s, with a degree of independence or with local/on-site (where the third party is located) supervision, remote workers largely function as in-house employees, reporting to and within the organizational hierarchy itself, albeit from a remote location.

Related Reading: Top 5 Outsourcing Tips

Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

The benefits of hiring remote employees are oft-quoted. But along with the benefits, there are some challenges as well. It is essential to understand the nature and effectively manage these challenges if you wish to extract the best out of your remote resources. By not paying heed to the challenges, you can see a decline in engagement from your high performing employees. So, here are the common challenges of managing remote employees:

  1. Distractions at home
  2. Not being able to connect with your employee face-to-face
  3. Lack of information access
  4. Social isolation

In the next sections, we will tell you how to manage a remote team and remote workers by effectively dealing with these challenges.

10 Best Practices for Managing Remote Employees

At Virtual Employee, we often come across clients who are in dilemma about the best way they can manage their hired resources. Having pretty much seen it all and more, we have found that the following tips are useful. So, here are 10 best practices that you can rely on for effectively managing remote employees:

#1. Mentorship and Guidance

The first step in effective remote workforce management is treating the remote workers at par with your in-house employees in terms of mentorship and guidance. Remember, while they may be specialists in their domains, they will still look up to you during a crunch and expect you to provide leadership.

Remote workers are much more involved in the framework of your organization and everyday things affect them as much as it would your in-house employees. The idea of loyalty and job satisfaction is as true for your remote worker as it is to an onsite one. And just as regular employees, they will look to learn from you and their immediate peers in your organization.

#2. Supervision

You cannot achieve excellence in managing remote employees without regular supervision.  Remote workers often work alone, especially the ones with specialized functions like designers, developers, etc. While bigger team models do exist (and we have quite a few of them in Virtual Employee itself), by and large, the professionals work independently and report directly to you or an assigned supervisor in-house.

Hence, it’s highly advisable to actively supervise and track your remote worker’s work through screen share and other online monitoring tools. That way the remote worker will feel that you are actively involved and what he/she is doing is important- a big motivational factor.

#3. Setting Clear Standards

Supervision or monitoring the work done by your remote resources would not be possible without clear standards or benchmarks. For instance, while hiring remote content writers, you might set a minimum word limit of 1500 words. Similarly, you might require a remote software developer to deliver codes for testing with a turnaround time of 5 days. Setting clear guidelines also helps prevent ambiguity in performance measurements and helps you proactively identify bottlenecks and address those.

#4. Listening is Important

To be a successful manager you should become a good listener. Communication, trust, and mutual respect are essential pillars of every relationship. Pay attention to the issues your remote workforce is facing and try to resolve the same.

#5. The Right Tools

To let your remote employees work efficiently and to their full potential, offer them the right set of tools. This means you should offer them access to the latest software and communication platform. However, if you access remote workers through a remote staffing company; they will take care of all these requirements.

#6. Communication and Hierarchies

For effectively managing a remote workforce, it’s very important to have well-defined hierarchies. This means if your remote worker depends on the output of an in-house employee, he/she should be able to do follow-ups with authority. It’s always good to have clear and transparent hierarchies, especially in large, decentralized organizations.

#7. Regular Team Interactions

You should treat remote resources as an extended part of your onsite team. Therefore, you need to connect with these resources regularly through team meetings and interactions. Regular communication can also solve several challenges of managing remote employees.

#8. Avoid Micromanagement

You do not need to look over your onsite team’s shoulders every moment. The same rule applies to your remote staff. While having a check at regular intervals is important to have an idea about the progress of affairs, you should avoid the urge to micromanage.

#9. Celebrate Success

While trying to figure out the answer to how to manage remote workers, do not overlook the importance of keeping them motivated. The simplest way you can use to motivate your remote staff is by celebrating each of their achievements. You can do this by sending out an email, giving financial rewards, or announcing the name of the best performers once in a while.

#10. Play It Safe

It’s always advisable to engage the services of a remote staffing company or platform through which you can hire your remote worker. Such a move has multiple benefits-

  1. The employee is ensured state of the art resources at his/her disposal (of course, depends on how well-established the organization is)
  2. There is always some sort of local supervision that ensures discipline and, in some cases, even mentorship. As a result, work flows smoothly.
  3. Good staffing organizations sign strict NDAs with the remote workers they hire on behalf of their clients (that would be you) and get into strict non-disclosure agreements themselves with the clients to offer the highest standards of data security.

10 Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams

Managers feel similar challenges while managing remote employees and teams. The root of all these problems lies in a lack of clear communication, trust, expectation and low productivity. But here are a set of ten tips that managers can rely upon to overcome these challenges and deftly manage remote teams.

#1. Determine Your Responsibilities

Before you can set expectations from team members, determine what is expected of you. This is the preliminary step for effectively managing remote employees. One of the major issues with a remote team is a lack of regular physical interaction.

Therefore, you have to step up to prevent communication gaps and clearly communicate expectations to each employee. You should also make sure that remote workers have access to all the necessary resources and are not subject to any discrimination.

#2. Find the Right People

Not everyone can perform well in a remote environment. Neither can all managers manage remote resources effectively. A remote team should understand deliverables and the importance of adhering to deadlines. Therefore, to succeed in remote team management, you should have resources that are best suited for remote settings. But, it is hard to judge a resource during the short span of interview. A plausible solution you can opt for is short trials before you seal the deal with any one.

#3. Create Structures

It is easy to disconnect with employees working from remote locations. To avoid such possibilities, have regular meetings and a clear organizational structure. Let the remote team know where they fall in the hierarchy, what their deliverables are, and to whom they should report regularly.

# 4. Have Clear Discussions with Your Remote Team

While it is important to have clear structures in place, invite your remote team members in discussions. Working with remote teams will become easy when the remote team members are motivated and ready to deliver their best. To make this possible, you have to create a democratic setup wherein they are involved in most processes.

#5. Communication

Have clear channels of communication with your remote team to help them perform to the best of their abilities. They should have a point of contact that they can approach in case of any difficulties. This will help prevent bottlenecks and ensure a smooth flow of activity.

#6. Set Expectations

One of the major challenges organizations face while working with remote teams is a lack of clarity over expectations. Therefore, the answer to how to manage a remote team starts with having clear expectations. Having clear expectations will also help you judge the performance of your remote team and address operational bottlenecks proactively.

#7. Avoid Micromanagement

While it is important to regularly monitor the performance of your remote teams, you should avoid the urge to micro-manage. The challenges of managing remote employees can compound if your remote team feels that they are not trusted or valued. Therefore, trust your remote resources and avoid micromanagement.

# 8. Do Not Overload Remote Teams

Check how much you expect from your remote team. Do not overload remote teams and make them victims of burnout or deliver poor-quality work. You can avoid these by consulting your team before delegating them work.

# 9. Encourage Social Interactions

It is vital to make remote team members feel like being part of your organization. You can achieve this by encouraging them to have social interactions with your on-site team virtually. You can also choose to fly down to their location and have a team gathering.

# 10. Create an Inclusive Culture

Make sure to involve everyone at the team meeting. This will encourage different members to bond together and form a cohesive culture.

Remote staffing, if done in the right manner, can do wonders. We, at Virtual Employee, have seen clients grow and thrive with the help of remote staffing through us. There are so many wonderful and uplifting stories that it feels genuinely great to be able to share and partner with someone’s dream and success story. Thousands of miles away, everything might seem virtual but the shared joys are very real.

So, what are you waiting for? Connect with our experts at Virtual Employee now and we will be glad to script the next success story for you!

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