The question of “can I work from home,” hits home for me. In a previous position, in 2016, I asked my former boss if I could work remotely. While I knew the company allowed some individuals to work offsite, no one in my direct department had done so, at least while I was there. However, I was still optimistic.
Well, this is how it went:
I asked if it would be possible to work from home. The commute had swelled to a little over an hour each way, and office distractions were limiting my productivity. My boss heard me but was wary. Not only was he uncomfortable about the idea, but he also went into the reasons why. At the time, I wasn’t the happiest with the outcome of the discussion. It was the catalyst for why I stepped out into freelancing.
These were a summary of the reasons remote work was not on the table at the time:
- They had tried remote work in the past, but it didn’t seem to increase performance or productivity.
- Consistent and thorough communication was always an issue.
- It was challenging to track what individual employees were working on and how much progress they had made.
- He felt it was easier to manage everyone in the same place.
Today, I understand why he said no, and it was the best thing that could have happened because our office wasn’t prepared for this. Being a remote manager is not for the faint of heart, and it requires an openness to take in-office processes and mimic them with digital tools and sound, remote work policies.
This setup was not happening at my office, and in workplaces are like this around the world. However, some are still saying yes, when they should be saying no to remote work until they consciously alter how work is completed.
The Questions I Should Have Asked (and the One’s Remote Managers Should Be Asking Themselves)
Instead of outright asking if I could work remotely, these are the questions I should have asked instead:
- “Do we have an asynchronous communication system?”
- “Is there a remote work policy?”
- “What tools do you use for onsite and offsite collaboration?”
- “How do you plan to engage remote employees?”
These questions would have given me all the information I needed without going through the awkward “can I work remote,” question process. However, these are also questions aspiring, or potential remote managers who want to introduce remote work should be asking themselves.
Basically, do the infrastructure, policy, and tools I have now allow employees to do their best work?
Am I truly prepared to manage a remote team?
The challenges of managing remote employees exist, and they are plentiful. However, I have seen companies overcome them and engage remote employees in new and innovative ways.
So, here are my tips for managing remote employees that I have observed, and that work!
Five Tips for Managing Remote Work Employees
Being a remote manager requires a combination of focus, attention-to-detail, compassion, and an openness to new ideas. This attitude will make it easier to engage remote employees. Here are some tips I have observed throughout my time working remotely.
Have a Solid and Detailed Remote Work Policy
Would you drive to an unknown location without GPS? Well, the same logic should be applied to remote work. I wouldn’t feel comfortable stepping into a remote work arrangement unless a company had a detailed remote work policy. It should include preferred working hours, discuss communication expectations (when to use synchronous and asynchronous systems), how often individuals are allowed to work remote, and where remote work is permitted.
Invest in Tools That Allow Your Offsite Team to Do Their Best Work
If I built homes, I would need a hammer, some drywall, and a variety of other construction tools. Managing remote teams also require the need to have the right tools. It would help if you had resources that mimic in-office processes, and a robust remote work app is essential. You need a tool that allows you to delegate tasks, plan meetings, add events to calendars (and integrate them into other calendar tools), report project progress, and utilize an instant messenger to communicate in real-time. An app like Flujo can allow you to accomplish each of these tasks. Work is hard enough; a tool like flujo can enable you to take in-office processes and achieve them offsite.
Define the Situations when Synchronous and Asynchronous Should be Used
Synchronous communications are messages that can be sent and seen in real-time. Examples of this are video conferencing, and instant messaging. On the other hand, asynchronous communication is when a message is sent for the recipient to open when they please. The art of managing remote teams involves both of these techniques. Typically, the situation will come down to email versus instant messaging.
I suggest that you have to help your remote employees determine when both are appropriate. Fortunately, tools like flujo make synchronous communications organized and strategic.
Over-communicate your Expectations, Tasks, and Important Project Details
When it comes to being a remote manager, I don’t think one can ever over-communicate. Messaging can quickly become misunderstood over email, while a task delegation can seem unclear. Fortunately, you can overcome this by over-communicating what you need. Discuss your expectations, tasks, and essential project notes in as much detail as possible.
Do not take for granted that your remote employees know what you mean. There are times where I have felt I was getting on the nerves of clients and coworkers by being very detailed in my emails, or sending follow-ups to confirm things. Even if it is the case, still do this. It saved me much chaos, and it will do the same for you.
Establish a Healthy Remote Work Culture
I marvel when I see companies being creative about how they work remotely. Some remote teams meet up for weekly virtual coffee-breaks while others celebrate birthdays during meetings. Your goal is to engage your remote employees, and one of the challenges of managing this group is keeping everyone motivated. I would suggest bringing some of the things you did in the office online. Schedule meetings for employees to catch-up and socialize, have an icebreaker during the first instant messaging dialogue, basically, get creative. The teams I have seen do things like this go far.
What all Remote Work Teams Need to be Successful
The five steps above will get you on the path to success. They will allow you to engage your remote employees. However, there is more to being a remote manager. Any team I have seen excel has something to unify the policy, ideas, and culture, and that is the right tool.
At flujo, we believe in the power of a robust productivity multiplier tool. It allows you to bring onsite processes offline. You no longer have to go to two to three different apps to accomplish what you need. A tool like flujo makes remote work possible. So, the next time an employee asks if they can go remote, our tool can make it possible to say, “yes.”
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