Why You Can’t Manage Remote Employees

If you’re looking for ways to manage your remote employees, you’re likely asking the wrong question.

Most remote workers are not looking to be micro-managed. Like all employees, they are volunteering to work for your company – and if they’re good – they likely have a long list of other places that would be happy to have them.

Remote workers choose to work remotely because it allows them to have control over their own schedule. Take that away by trying to micro-manage their day to day activities and you’ll be forcing your best people out your virtual door.

So how do you effectively manage a virtual office?

Reward results, not time

In a bricks and mortar office, it’s easy to know if your employees are working. If they’re in the office, they’re working. Those who put in the most face time are said to work the hardest.

Yet it’s the concept of face time that blurs the more important question.

Which of your team members works the most effectively?

Your customers don’t pay you for your hours, they pay you for the results of your hard work and experience. Your team should be no different. A customer logo redesign may have only taken 10 minutes – but it’s actually 10 minutes + 4 years of schooling and 10 years of experience. That same logo redesign could have taken someone else a full day to work on, and they may have produced an entirely different result.By focusing on the work itself and not the time spent, you’ll be able to track the value added by each team member.

Manage processes, not people

In order to understand if your team is being effective, you’ll need to have insight into the projects or tasks they’re responsible for. Many managers tend to ask employees to  “cc” them on every communication with a client so they can “see” the work being done. Yet trying to stay on top of all communication is also sending the message that you don’t trust your team – a symptom of micro-management.

Instead, put in processes that allow you to track progress on a project or job without sticking your nose into every task that you ask your team to do.

Setting up some basic project management software is a great way to start. Ask team members to post important client communication in specific jobs and put detailed notes on the progress of projects. Rather than demand why you weren’t “cc’ed” on a project change of scope, ask why it wasn’t mentioned in the project notes.

Instead of yelling about a missed deadline, ask your team members to prioritize their projects in the software and create alerts when a project due date approaches.Doing so will not only give more autonomy to your team and show that you trust them, but will also give you more in-depth insight into the status of your projects.

Invest in your hiring process

Not every person is suited for a remote office. Some people benefit from the structure of a nine to five day and having access to in-person guidance. Others may find it difficult to work on their own terms or lack the social aspect of having a full office of people around them.

Whatever the case may be, a clearly thought out hiring process will act as your main line of defence against those that are not a good fit – and will identify those that will thrive at your organization.

Conducting one or two interviews is generally not enough to determine if a candidate is the right fit. Some companies will ask candidates to fill out personality surveys while others do in person physiological monitoring (think building Lego towers in a group).

While most young startups don’t have the resources to conduct in-depth testing, you can certainly find a task or project for a candidate to work on.

Ultimately you want to understand how a candidate approaches a task or project. Are they resourceful? Do they ask the right questions? Do other people on the team like working with them? Giving them a real life situation will give you a lot more insight into how they’ll work on a day to day basis.By focusing on managing the operations and workflow around your team, you’ll be better positioned to create a remote work environment that the right people can thrive in.