5 Tips for Managing Remote Workers

Effectively Manage Remote Employees

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Remote work offers a number of advantages for employers and employees alike, including cutting down on employee commute time, saving on office space expense, and enabling work to get done wherever an employee may be. However, there are also drawbacks to remote work which can cause anticipated productivity gains from the practice to fall short of expectations. These include:

  • Lack of oversight resulting in reduced remote worker productivity
  • Difficulty with communication due to a lack of face-to-face contact
  • Difficulty in working together as a team
  • Distracted working behavior due to suboptimal working conditions

The tips outlined below are designed to help you overcome these and other potential pitfalls of managing remote employees.

Be Transparent

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It takes more effort, generally speaking, to get remote workers to learn and buy-in to a company’s corporate culture. On-premises employees often naturally pick up your company’s goals, objectives, and way of doing business by social interaction as much as by reading company manuals and guidebooks. Given that remote workers aren’t able to take advantage of this effect, you should go out of your way to make sure that remote employees are kept informed of the company’s objectives and expectations.

Transparency is crucial for accomplishing this. Being transparent means informing workers about not only the company’s goals, but also the progress the company is making to achieve them and what it means to the company (and its employees) to achieve those goals. In other words, what success looks like. Being transparent about an employee’s role in achieving company objectives helps generate buy-in and improves overall worker productivity.

Written documentation is key to fostering transparency by providing material employees can search through for information regarding company policies and procedures at a time of their choosing. Remote workers should be provided with access to any and all general information that they need to function on a team.

Lack of access to this type of information, or selective disclosure of it, can lead to suboptimal results or even failure to achieve team objectives. Sharing information of this type with team members has been made easier by the development of collaboration tools which facilitate communicating and sharing information.

One such tool is Slack, which allows you to make updated data relating to your team’s progress available to all team members in a format where they can communicate with you and others about the project. This type of transparency helps you keep everyone on the same page about a project’s goals and progress.

Track Performance and Stress Accountability

Stressing accountability is a must when it comes to getting the most out of remote employees. While remote work offers cost savings, it also makes it more difficult to determine how much work an employee has completed. To ensure that remote employees aren’t using the lack of direct supervision to slack off, perform rigorous tracking of their productivity. A variety of tools can assist you in this process by logging hours worked and progress made on specific tasks.

Inform remote employees that their performance will be tracked. This lets them know that they will be held accountable for working productively. This ties into the idea of using transparency to help promote beneficial outcomes. If employees understand that working remotely does not imply any lack of accountability when it comes to what is expected of them, you improve your ability to maximize the value of using remote workers.

Emphasize Communication

Remote workers can’t chat over coffee in the employee lounge or walk across the floor to ask a colleague a question. This makes it incumbent on you as the manager to take steps to make sure that communication issues don’t prevent your remote team members from being as productive as possible. Taking steps to provide a communications structure that helps to avoid miscommunication is highly recommended.

In an on-premises scenario, miscommunication can often be smoothed over by face-to-face contact. This is not the case when it comes to remote teams, so paying careful attention to the communication channels and procedures used for remote team communication is necessary to reduce the chances of encountering problems of this type.

To address communications issues, you can take the following steps:

  • Make yourself as available as possible to talk with your team members if they should have any questions about a project or task
  • Emphasize that team members should err on the side of over-communicating
  • If team members have any questions or comments about a project or policy, encourage them to call, email, or message someone on the team to seek clarification

There are a variety of communications apps that can be helpful when it comes to effectively managing remote employees. Video conferencing apps such as Skype allow you to speak face to face with distant employees, while teamwork management apps make it easy to message and collaborate with remote employees. Make sure to clearly specify to your team which communications tools should be used and how they should be used.

Host Meetings on a Regular Basis

When holding remote meetings, make them subject to the same preparations and procedures as meetings that take place in person. Work up an agenda with action items and prepare any slides or videos necessary for the presentation. Visual images can help keep a remote audience engaged, so try to include at least some visuals in your meetings when possible. Given their nature, remote meetings should be short and to the point. Keep attendees engaged so their attention doesn’t wander.

These meetings should be held on a regular basis to ensure that remote workers feel that they are connected to their colleagues and valued by their employer. In addition to a functional component, such meetings also have the social purpose of increasing team member buy-in. Taking the time to speak with team members voice-to-voice or face-to-face, either via voice or video conference calls or having them meet on-premises from time to time, is essential for building a strong bond among the team.

Given their nature, remote meetings should be short and to the point. 

Help Remote Workers Be Productive

Working remotely, for all its advantages, can present the opportunity for workers to pick up some unproductive habits. These can take a variety of forms, including:

  • Procrastination
  • Unproductive multi-tasking. For instance, watching TV while working.
  • Atrophied social skills due to infrequent human interaction
  • Working remotely can blur the distinction between a worker’s home and work life, leading to workaholism, which can hurt an employee’s productivity in the long-term.

To help remote workers overcome these and other challenges of distance working, there are a variety of steps you can take. One of these is emphasizing positive work habits by stressing the need to take time to attend to one’s physical and mental health.

This could include physical work-outs, eating healthy, taking mental breaks, practicing yoga, meditation, or some other relaxation or contemplation technique that helps keep an individual focused and happy. Different approaches will be appropriate for different people, of course, but, in general, promoting a holistic view to work-life balance among your team members can pay dividends by enhancing remote worker productivity.

Another aspect of remote work worthy of focus is the work environment. Remote workers who work mainly at home may find that they must deal with a plethora of distractions, including spouses, significant others, kids, roommates, television, neighbors, and the list goes on. It can be helpful to advise workers in such a situation to establish an alternate work site so they can avoid facing these distractions on a continual basis. Such sites could take the form of a quiet coffee shop, a local workspace colocation facility, or some other location where they can get away from the home environment to avoid distractions from time to time.

When it comes to fostering social interaction, holding frequent meetings, even if they are short ones, offers remote workers the chance to establish a social bond with their coworkers and avoid feeling isolated by their work. In terms of procrastination, using productivity tools can cut down on this tendency and help workers be productive by providing them with reminders of deadlines and milestones relating to important tasks.

Nuvro is a robust online project management tool that helps you manage your entire team whether they’re across the room or on the other side of the world. With Nuvro you can gain control and peace of mind over all of your projects, tasks, team members, workload and everything else important to your company. In addition to the project, task and collaboration features found in most PM tools, Nuvro also provides a company dashboard, a team dashboard, team member performance reviews, secure document management, an internal alternative to email and more. Nuvro is perfect for busy teams looking to accomplish more. Learn More…

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Building Trust for Remote Employees with Time Tracking

We live in a society that puts real-time information at your fingertips by use of computers and other electronic devices. Technology has made it possible for many employees to work from their homes and other remote locations, which means that telecommuting is steadily on the rise. However, many managers have concerns that keep them from taking advantage of telecommuting.

Some are afraid that productivity and/or quality of work will suffer due to lack of control over the remote employee. Security is also an issue but tracking software is available to help managers maintain control and keep information secure. With the right resources, employers can keep track of these employees without spying on them or creating trust issues between employee and company.

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Remote Work Digest: October 13, 2017

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

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Image from Goodhousekeeping.com

5 Key Practice Of Successful Remote Work Teams | Daniel Newman, Forbes.com

Nowadays — as more people continue to work remotely — leaders must find new ways to unite employees who are spending an increasing amount of time apart.

Studies show nearly 40% of today’s employees work offsite on a regular basis. While that’s great when it comes to saving on company overhead, it does present some challenges for leaders in terms of creating a singular culture that all employees—regardless of location — can rally behind. Indeed, as I wrote in my article Digital Transformation Cannot Succeed Without the Right Culture, culture and vision are what hold companies together in times of change and perceived chaos. Ironically, digital transformation is also making it increasingly difficult to build those bonds. Luckily, there are things leaders can do to foster a strong culture, despite differences in location and time zone. The following are just a few tips:

Use The Technology Available
As a leader, it’s important for you to “walk the walk” and take time to use new technology like telepresence robots, chat apps, video conference, and other unified communication channels to get your team on board with communicating this way in their daily lives.

Make Time For Homeroom
Even with many remote employees, you can still create consistent communication standards throughout the enterprise. The purpose of homeroom was to allow everyone to connect, discuss the day’s goals and capacity issues, and ask for help where needed. The best part: teammates were empowered to call their own homeroom meetings if needed, throughout the rest of the day. It doesn’t matter if you call it homeroom, all-hands, or daily update — the point is, consistent communication is a must.

Be Clear About Availability
It’s possible to allow for flexibility while also establishing clear virtual “office hours” for remote employees so your in-house workers know they can rely on their entire team to be available via chat or telepresence when needed. Doing so will help establish trust and consistency across all departments.

Get To Know Employees as People
It can be easy to forget to involve your remote employees in impromptu onsite conversations, or to forget that they also have lives, interests, and strengths outside of their initial job functions. Take time to get to know your remote employees as people, rather than just task managers.

Meet Face to Face
There’s nothing better than putting a face to a name — no matter how much easier it is to text, email, or chat about what we need. I know of at least one company that has established “unplugged” days where people are required to speak in person rather than via technology whenever possible. You’d be surprised how many people who worked in the same building ended up meeting one another for the first time.

Even companies with all employees working onsite experience challenges creating effective employee culture. And though it may be difficult, it is not an insurmountable task. Involve your employees in the process. Empower them to use their voice to make a difference. Use the tools available to you. That’s the way of the future. That’s the only way your company will succeed in a mobile working world.

Managing Your Schedule Like a Boss: Tips the Experts Never Tell You | John Rampton, Entrepreneur.com

Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.

But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.

Create a routine.

Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.

Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all.

Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week. 

“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.

“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”

Add time buffers to manage your schedule.

A buffer is something like this:

You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.

Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule your calendar like a to-do list. 

If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.

For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.

Use batching and time-blocking.

Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.

Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.

Optimize time for different meeting types.

Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:

  • 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
  • 15-minute daily standup if you’re a startup or leading an engineering team.
  • 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.

Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.

Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival

7 Creative Ways to Show Remote Workers You Care | Jennifer Parris, Flexjobs.com

In a remote work environment, showing your workers that you care can require a little more effort. The good thing is that it’s easy to make your remote workers feel special, no matter where they are working in the world.

Here are some creative ways to show remote workers you care:

1. Talk to them.

Schedule a check-in with your remote workers at least once every six months or so to see where they’re at in terms of work and also their personal life. It gives your employee the chance to air any grievances, clear the air, and also reconnect with you and the company if he’s starting to feel a little disengaged.

And, as an employer, you can address any issues and find out a little more about what your employee is experiencing, both at work and at home.

2. Reward their work.

What worker doesn’t want to feel that their hard work is appreciated by the organization? Even for the most introverted of employees, you can include a “rock star of the month” award to spotlight your employees’ efforts in the company newsletter.
Acknowledging employees who went above and beyond the call of duty is a great way to show that you both recognize their hard work and appreciate their contribution to the company.

3. Make it memorable.

Make it a point to keep track of your workers’ important dates, such as work anniversaries, birthdays—even their wedding anniversaries and kids’ birthdays. You can send flowers or a gift basket for the big ones, and just jot off an email to wish your worker a happy anniversary or happy birthday to a child.

That little bit of extra effort can go a long way towards making your remote worker feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

4. Include their partners.

Let’s say that you’ve organized a meet-up for some of your workers who live near each other. Don’t just limit the invite to employees, though.

Encourage them to bring along their spouses and significant others, just as they might if it were a traditional office get-together.

After all, your remote employees might feel awkward if they’re meeting each other for the first time, and having their loved ones there can help break the ice. Plus, it shows that the company cares not just for them, but for their sweeties, too.

5. Support their outside endeavors.

As a part of their company culture, some companies are very supportive of their workers’ outside interests. That might be their humanitarian work, their contributions to their communities, and so on.

You can mention their work in the company newsletter or even reward them for their outside work. Offer a small stipend for any volunteer hours worked as a way to encourage their humanitarian efforts.

6. Be empathetic.

Don’t let the distance of a remote work environment create distance between you and your remote employee. Instead of being sympathetic, try to be empathetic and relate to your remote worker. Not only will it build stronger bonds between the two of you, it will show that you truly care.

7. Look for ways to create new opportunities and experiences for them.

Sometimes, you can show your remote workers that you care for them by giving them more work! No, not the kind that makes them feel bored at work, but the kind that they really want. Find ways to reward their work by giving them the work they really want to do, whether it’s in the form of a plum new assignment or a shiny promotion.

Showing your remote workers that you care for them should be a big part of your management style. It will help retain the top-level talent you already have, and become a natural part of your company culture that will help you attract new talent to your organization.

10 Ways to 10x Personal and Organizational Productivity | Deji Atoyebi, Business2community.com

Being productive is all about doing the best quality work within a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer that to become a successful entrepreneur or an employee, productivity must be your strong suit. It’s equally important for managers to strive at improving employee productivity in order to grow their business. In view of these, this article will walk you through 10 pragmatic ways to increase both personal and organizational productivity.

#1. Use a Standing Desk: 

Standing is assumed to aid productivity through various ways. First, it improves health and provides energy bu reducing back and neck pain, burning calories, among other things. Second, standing decreases one’s tendency of falling asleep while working. Also, there are claims that it generally helps to increase creativity.

#2. Take Occasional Breaks: 

Taking occasional breaks while working is a good way to stay productive for a relatively longer time. Breaks tend to rejuvenate, rekindle attention and restore motivation. They can also prevent “decision fatigue”; in fact, a ‘walking rest’ is considered to help prolong memories and improve learning.

Don’t overwork yourself when you could avoid it; take a break as soon as you start finding it difficult to focus on the job at hand. Managers should also schedule appropriate break sessions for employees.

#3. Delegate When Necessary and Possible: 

To boost your productivity, you must learn when to let go of and prioritize work. Delegate tasks that you’d be better off not doing and trust those to whom you delegate them.

Don’t be a multitasking control-freak!

#4. Tidy Up Your Workspace:

A clean work space would most definitely make your focus more on the job at hand by freeing your mind of potential distractions that could sway you away from your work. Things like your mobile phone and random documents are good examples of such distractions.

In a nutshell, reduce the clutter and save yourself from being overwhelmed.

#5. Use Effective Analytic Technologies:

Businesses with relevant, large enough datasets and effective tools for manipulating them are more privileged than those without. But in what way does analytics boost productivity, you ask? Simple.

Well-analyzed data makes it easier to make good business decisions and even fastens the process. Without these data, it’s amazingly easy to gloss over necessary facts and delay the execution of a project.

#6. Use Time-Management/Tracking Software:

Although there are various options to help in tracking and managing time, special software for such a purpose are usually the best way to go. A good time-tracking software will make it easier for you to determine the period in the day in which you’re most productive and the type of work you’re generally faster at doing. Therefore, it’d enable you weigh your options and ultimately improve your productivity.

#7. Prioritize Knowledge Acquisition:

You need to strive for a better knowledge-base either at the personal or organizational level. A manager who provides effective training programs for employees would be turbo-charging their confidence and making them more productive performers.

#8. Get Enough Sleep:

Getting enough sleep improves memory, strengthens focus, increases energy and facilitates quite a number of things that soars productivity and which sleep deprivation naturally impedes.

#9. Make Use of Effective Collaboration Tools:

There are tools to help facilitate collaboration and thus aid coordination. A good example is Github, which is primarily a platform for software developers to jointly work on software and commit changes, independently. Some other general-purpose collaboration tools that aid work-flow are Slack, Trello, Google Keep and a host of others. They all have the potential of making you more productive in your daily work.

#10. Minimize Face-to-face Interactions:

Even in a not-so-crowded workplace, there’d be times when you, as an employee, would have to put your job on hold in order to talk to someone who needs help for something quite trivial or who just wants a tête-à-tête. This scenario can be frustrating and more frequent than normal.To avoid this, it’s reasonable to avoid things that could lead to face-to-face interactions while working. Many software developers are known to wear headphones for this purpose.