How to manage remote employees

The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with fast broadband and online collaboration tools, has led to a surge in remote working for some sectors.

Remote working is part of a migration to realising the benefits of flexible working – 87% of employees want to work flexibly, with 99% of businesses surveyed by the CBI considering flexible working a vital part of competitiveness.

The CBI reported in 2021 that 76% of UK businesses expected the use of hybrid or remote working policies to increase following the pandemic.

With the rise in remote working, many workplace-based management approaches need to be updated to accommodate an increasingly remote workforce.

Managing remote workers can be very different to managing employees in an office space.

However, managing a remote workforce isn’t an impossible task.

Numerous resources are available online and in-person to help foster effective teamwork and online collaboration.

What are the challenges of remote working?

Remote working can provide some challenges for everyone involved.

Employees familiar with working full-time in an office environment may find working remotely from home – possibly alone – an isolating experience.

Younger workers, in particular, have reported heightened stress and anxiety levels since moving to more remote work, according to a study by Deloitte.

For employers, addressing challenges as early as possible could increase the chances of remote working success.

According to the CBI, challenges employers may face can include:

  • increased stress or mental health issues through people working remotely
  • difficulty working as expected for employees who lack privacy or space at home
  • employee conflict due to communication challenges and team relationships
  • difficulty in conducting appropriate workplace safety risk assessments
  • reduced productivity due to technical barriers, such as poor internet connectivity
  • worries about data security and access to business networks and software
  • increased administration managing remote workers.

How to manage a team of remote workers

Here are some tips on how to manage a team of remote workers.

Set clear expectations from the start

Clear guidelines, policies, and expectations for remote teams can remove uncertainty from home working.

Set clear policies detailing when the working day begins and ends, scheduled breaks, and time away from work for home-based childcare or medical appointments.

Be clear on how often remote workers should update you and each other.

Set and regularly review remote workers’ goals, responsibilities, and how you’ll measure their performance.

It’s a good idea to meet regularly to discuss performance, and be willing to adjust workloads and tasks to suit remote work time better.

Hold regular check-ins

Scheduled daily or weekly check-ins, whether a quick phone call or a video conference, can help you track your employees’ progress in a non-invasive way.

Consider checking in with employees during the day to see how they are progressing, and check that they have access to other employees needed for their work.

Hold morning meetings

Consider kicking off remote working days or weeks with a short, whole team meeting.

Keep it short – aim for 15 minutes – to ensure everyone is on the same page about the goals for the day or week and everyone knows their tasks.

This time can also foster connections, encouraging team members to update each other on progress and share updates with the broader team.

Equipment and technology

Technology is an essential part of remote working.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Zoom reported their active meeting user numbers grew by 2,900%, allowing remote teams to quickly and effectively communicate and work together.

Consider the equipment employees need to work remotely, including laptops, broadband, video cameras, and printers.

You may not always need to provide equipment for employees working from home but it can be a good idea to check what equipment is being used, if it is suitable for the tasks, and who else has access to it.

Consider setting secure passwords and implementing cybersecurity tools to prevent unauthorised access to company files and data.

Use collaborative tools

Numerous tools allow teams to work effectively together.

Many tools are freely available with limited features and can be ideal for start-ups on a tight budget.

Consider using free email and office tools, instant messaging, project management, file storage, and collaborative workspaces such as team whiteboards.

Examples include:

The government’s Help to Grow Digital scheme also provides access to discounted software.

Build and reinforce connections

Remote working, especially from home, can feel isolating and uncomfortable for some remote workers.

The adverse mental health effects of this could harm productivity and output.

Building and reinforcing connections with and within remote teams should be a priority for any manager.

Think about ways to encourage employees to schedule frequent catch-ups with one another, and consider virtual social gatherings such as shared movie nights, quizzes, or wine tasting where employees are sent wine or popcorn and meet online to share experiences.

Encourage feedback

If remote working is new to you and your team, there may be a period of trial and error as employees adjust to the remote working life.

Asking for feedback can help you identify problem areas to tackle.

Ask employees for ideas to improve remote working and agree on an action plan.

Creating an effective team

Remote working means workers can miss out on the benefits of in-person collaboration.

Ideas to try to build a more cohesive team – even when working remotely – include:

  • identifying ways for people to work together, such as on shared projects
  • taking time from tasks for team-building exercises and group learning sessions, such as specialist talks and training
  • aligning work schedules, so remote workers begin and end work at the same time
  • positively facilitating online meetings, ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute.

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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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