COVID-19 has quickly gone from strange fever dream to a full-blown nightmare for businesses. And you, as a manager, are responsible for keeping your team sane during such a weird time.
While remote work was a new and somewhat jarring jump for businesses, it’s actually a smart move for employers.
(Aside from the whole, y’know, “keeping people safe from a pandemic” thing.)
Just look at the stats:
- Remote companies have a 25% lower turnover rate.
- 76% of workers would stay at their current job if they had more flexible hours.
- Remote workers are 24% more likely to be happy and productive.
- 86% of employees think remote work reduces their stress.
Oh, and telecommuting saved employers $44 billion in 2015.
If you made the leap to remote work out of necessity, congratulations. You’ll reap the benefits of remote work while keeping your employees safe.
3 tips for managing remote employees
But if remote work is so peachy keen for employees, why do managers dread it?
Well, it’s hard to manage remote workers.
Traditional management styles just don’t prepare you for something like this. After all, digital communication is so much harder—you have to overcommunicate in your Slack chats just so Nancy in accounting doesn’t think you hate her.
But like it or not, it’s your job. If you want to learn how to manage remote employees. Follow these 3 tips to empower your team to do their jobs well.
1. Stop stalking your employees
Please, please don’t become one of those weirdos who installs tracking software on employee laptops. It’s creepy as heck and a definite red flag that you don’t know how to manage remote employees.
Screen recorders also mean you have zero trust in your employees, and that, unless you’re hovering over their shoulder, you think they’re goofing off.
(The stats say that remote workers are actually more productive than office workers, by the way.)
But that doesn’t mean remote work is a free-for-all.
As a manager, you need to focus on KPIs, goals, and output. Time spent in front of the screen doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all about results and output; focus on that instead of the 15 minutes they spent calming their crying kids.
Be a reasonable human.
2. Set norms and expectations
Consider every employee as an awkward intern right now: they’re going to make weird missteps. That’s because your employees learned office norms in person, but the tables turned when they went online. From not muting themselves to angling the camera really weird, your employees are going to do annoying stuff when they go remote.
As a manager, you have to not only write down these expectations, but model them yourself. Norms help your employees feel more sure in their work and they also make it easier for you to manage people.
Oh, and it preemptively prevents weird Zoom behavior, which is always a plus. (How do you politely tell someone you can see they aren’t wearing pants???)
These norms might include:
- Keeping your video feed on during calls.
- Muting yourself if you aren’t talking.
- Sending quick questions over via Slack instead of email.
- Scheduling meetings via Calendly or Doodle instead of email.
- Expected online hours, like 8 am to 5 pm.
Make sure the team is clear on these norms and the reasons behind them. And you’re not immune to these rules, either—if you want employees to follow your lead, follow your own advice.
When it’s time to do performance reviews for remote employees, have empathy. As long as they meet their KPIs and goals, you’re doing great.
Everybody’s doing their best right now, you know? You aren’t going to ace this remote management thing out of the gates.
If you want to continue growing as a manger (and you should), get feedback from your employees. This can be about your management style, remote policies, or new procedures. When you know what isn’t working, you can make solutions that actually do work, helping everybody win.
You’re probably busy, so consider making yourself available during daily office hours. Employees can hop onto the designated chat line or video feed to ask their questions.
And remember, listen. If your employee sounds distraught or frustrated, don’t sweep it under the rug. That’s your chance to ensure they’re satisfied and productive working remotely.
The bottom line
Remote work is a necessity right now, but there’s a good chance your company will do it permanently going forward. It’s been an adjustment for everyone, including managers. Try to lead with empathy, both for your employees and yourself, during these strange times. You’ll make mistakes, but that’s the best way to learn. Now go forth and manage your team to victory. You’ve got this, boss!