Lessons and stories about business operations related to managing, leading, and developing people.

The Two Most Important Skills for Managing a Remote Teammate

The Two Most Important Skills for Managing a Remote Teammate

Telecommuting used to be the future of work; now, it’s pretty much the status quo. With two offices (one in San Francisco and one in Vancouver), we know how difficult it is to create a cohesive company culture without having all employees in the same place at the same time.

More and more companies are facing this challenge, meaning more and more managers need to become better equipped at managing a remote workforce. With the right mindset and a good plan of action, your remote team members can feel valued and included, regardless of where they are or how they work.

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The future of work is remote

According to a recent Gallup poll, the average worker telecommutes twice a month, with 37% of all U.S. workers reporting that they’ve worked remotely. Global Workplace Analytics shows that 50% of the workforce holds a job that’s compatible with at least partial telework, and 80-90% of the same group would like to telework at least part time. Whether you like it or not, modern work is shifting to favor more flexible options and as a leader, you’ll want to make yourself adaptable by honing in a few key skills.

Communication

Long-distance relationships of any kind depend on open lines of communication. If constant contact isn’t feasible, then consistent contact should be your goal.

To maintain open contact over the course of a workday, you might want to consider implementing Slack, Asana, or Trello, tools which offer a space for remote and local employees to engage in real-time. You can also explore a range of employee-monitoring tools like HiveDesk and Time Doctor. Those programs will tell you which minutes of the day they’re at their laptop—but they won’t help you build open, trusting relationships with your remote hires.

To cultivate trust, stick to your booked engagements with the remote employee. Whether it’s a daily morning ‘huddle’ on any number of teleconferencing platforms or a one-on-one video chat, it’s important that you prioritize your interactions with remote hires.

There’s no substitute for prioritizing meetings when you’re in a long-distance (work) relationship; this goes double for meetings that they specifically requested. When you really can’t avoid the need to reschedule, make sure that you immediately propose an alternate time so you don’t end up going weeks without a check in.

Clear (but open) boundaries

When someone is working beyond the confines of a 9-5 desk job, it can be easy to idealize 24/7 availability. Technology has created an ecosystem where it’s technically possible; if someone’s noodling around on their phone late at night, they will see your request.

Make sure that your remote employees understand that there is no reward for constant availability; in fact, stress to them that the last thing that you want is for them to burn out. An important message is not always an urgent message, and vice versa. It’s up to you to communicate this when you reach out to them.

Remote teams operate most freely when they know their dedication will be measured by the delivery of timely, quality work. If your engineers and writers work best in the wee small hours of the morning, why not let them? If you have a remote salesperson who hits their targets but has to return some shoes to the mall before closing, respect that life happens to the best of us.

These guidelines should be established in your onboarding process, publicly available for review, and openly discussed in any one-on-one meeting with a remote hire.

Want a 9 Step Checklist for Managing a Remote Team?
Click Here to Download

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