Since my post last week talked about how to manage your boss while working remotely, I thought that it was only fair to provide managers with some tips for managing those employees in other locations — something that I’m about to start doing again.
In past jobs, I managed quite a few people who worked out of remote locations. Some of them worked from home full-time while others were in offices that were spread out in California and Washington while I worked here in Portland, Oregon. But right now, all of the people that I manage are working in the same office building. While we all work from home regularly, we all have cubicles in our office. However, that is all about to change. The building that we work in is being renovated this summer, and we’re being kicked out of our little boxes. There isn’t really room for us in the other buildings, so the company is encouraging us to work from home full-time from July through September. I’ll be managing remotely again, and here are my tips for managing a remote team.
Regular Staff Meetings
It’s important to get the team together on a regular basis to stay in touch with each other and keep up with what other team members are working on. Depending on the team and how much collaboration happens between team members, you may want to meet weekly, monthly or somewhere in between. I’ve worked on teams of program managers where the team members spent most of their time working with stakeholders outside of the team, so the staff meetings focused on learning best practices from each other along with occasional corporate communications or budget updates. Other teams work much more closely together and meet more frequently to collaborate on common tasks. It’s important to get the team together occasionally at least over the phone, but how often you need to meet depends on the team.
Check In Regularly
The focus here should be on checking in with your employees (not checking up on them). This could be a regular meeting with each employee or something less formal over IM or email, as needed. One of the most important responsibilities of any manager is to make sure that the people who work for you have what they need to accomplish their jobs efficiently. You may need to help them overcome roadblocks from other teams, which could involve kicking some butt on their behalf, or you may need to help them get budget for some critical resources. When people are working remotely, it can be easy for them to feel a little alone, so it’s important to keep in touch and let them know that you’re happy to help with whatever they need.
I mentioned the importance of email updates for remote employees last week as way to make sure their manager knows exactly what they are doing. This goes both ways, and managers should also be providing regular updates for remote employees. These updates might include any corporate communications people need to know, updates from other teams and anything else you might hear that impacts the people who work on your team. Making sure that the people who work for you have accurate updates is especially important for remote employees who might otherwise miss important information.
An important task for any manager is to make sure that your team stays well connected and productive regardless of the obstacles. This is especially true for remote employees who can become disconnected from the company and other team members if they don’t have good support. Getting everyone working together regardless of their location is critical for managers of remote teams.
What are your tips for managing remote workers?
Photo by Dawn Foster, used with permission.