This post was originally written for Incentive Magazine back in 2010. It’s amazing what can happen in a decade, with so many work from home employees due to the pandemic. Naturally, this only applies to knowledge workers, certain professionals, information technology, and other office workers able to perform most of their job functions at home.
Addenda are made when needed to comply with our current pandemic health prevention or restrictions.
Managing people who work at a distance from a company office is a far different situation than managing those we work with in person. Rather than trying to manage a remote worker the same ways as you would someone in the next office, try these top 10 ways to build trust, inspire confidence and recognize your remote employees.
- Keep everyone connected. Make it easy for on-site colleagues to get in touch with remote workers. Telephone systems, instant messaging and voice calling over internet applications enable remote workers to feel connected and a part of the team. [Now we have videoconferencing tools such as Zoom which was founded in 2011.]
- Recognize expectations met. Remote workers consistently meet deadlines and expected levels of performance and should be recognized as valuable assets for their focused dedication. Make time to quickly phone them or leave after work voice mails to specifically praise them for their dependable track record.
- Encourage transparency. Support remote workers personal needs with family and life by developing transparent sharing of schedules and appointments. Just knowing where they are at any given time helps build trust with the rest of the team who are used to more traditional work schedules. [COVID-19 has required multiple partners, spouses, and children to be home together and juggling personal needs and use of technology and internet.]
- Get information out at lightning speed. Ensure your remote team members not only have access to the same formal and informal sources of information as their colleagues in the office but that they even get it before the internals do.
- Schedule weekly conversations. Remote workers are often reluctant to seek help from their managers, human resource experts, or external sources. Set up a regular day and time to discuss workloads and assignments, ask and answer questions and concerns to maintain an open line of communication.
- Offer time management training. The greatest challenge for remote workers is balancing priorities to get tasks completed. This training should include the unique challenges of dealing with family, friends, and unusual interruptions; and the feelings of guilt associated with working excessive hours. [Many new work from home employees need guidance and productivity tips to deal with isolation and work pressures.]
- Declare weekends free. Create clear guidelines and expectations regarding response to e-mails and assignments on weekends. Dedicated remote workers can easily fall into the trap of working 24/7. Encourage shut-down and “off times” with standards on exceptions to the rule to help prevent burnout.
- Do remotely special things. Think about what home office employees experience on a regular basis. Now realize what remote workers are missing out on and be creative on trying to recreate that in their lives – sending edible flower arrangements on anniversaries; personalized pens and latest office gizmos; and taking them out for lunch on a specially arranged visit to their hometown location. [While you might not have the freedom to send tangible items, make sure you show them care and concern, and give what you can to support them.]
- Empower workers for productivity. Provide training and mentoring on overcoming the challenges of working remotely. Training will help make remote workers more productive and more satisfied with their working experience. Provide the choice of offering this training remotely or in-class at the company location. [There are multiple sources for online training now since in-class instructions is prohibited.]
- Managers must learn how to trust. Managers must learn and adapt to managing the ever-growing virtual employees now in excess of 50 million. Learning how to create high-trust relationships must become a core skill for managing the almost invisible powerhouse of remote workers.
Recognition Reflection: What practices have you started doing to better appreciate your new “work from home” employees?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.