Managing Remote Employees

When traveling around the country to speak to leadership audiences, I often get asked questions about managing remote employees.  Here are a few simple tips that we discuss:

  • Schedule trips to go see them in person (or have them come to you) and leave lots of time to socialize and network
  • Send them updates often – or ask them to send you details about their week in Friday morning emails, etc.
  • Set clear goals – not just work objectives, but career goals as well
  • Set the ground rules about how and when you’ll communicate with each other
  • Use instant messaging or Face Time type tools to stay in touch (instead of email all the time)
  • Agree on what decisions your direct reports can make or not make (in advance)
  • Schedule and keep weekly 1-1’s (exchanging a brief agenda ahead of time)
  • Use video conferencing wherever possible
  • Train employees on active listening skills
  • Build trust – show that you’ll do what you say you’ll do (deliver on time, budget, etc)
  • Explain your requests – always provide the “why”
  • Be upfront when making changes to your commitments or requests
  • Take notes on conference calls and send follow-up emails to recap
  • Forewarn when things are changing – send a heads-up (in either direction)
  • Leave time on calls to catch up on personal stuff

Managing remote employees is a special challenge for managers.  Remember, they like some aspects of working remotely, but they still want to have a solid relationship with their manager.  Make sure you’re “going the extra mile” for your direct reports who don’t work right down the hall from you.  They deserve a boss who’s “present” and paying attention…