<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Managing Remote Workers: What Leaders Should Understand

February 7, 2020
Managing Remote Workers

This blog was originally published on February 7, 2020 to address the shift towards remote work that many workplaces have been adopting over the last few years. However, we hope that this information will be helpful as many more organizations are now enforcing remote work policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). 

There is little debate that remote work is here to stay: it helps promote work-life balance, it shows no decrease in productivity when compared to in-office performance, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for remote work increased by 115% from 2005-2015. However, the option for remote work cannot be applied with a broad brush and be expected to have the same outcomes for all jobs or all employees.

Competencies that leaders seem to struggle with when it comes to managing remote workers:

  • Community. In some ways, the solitary nature of remote work is a blessing: no annoying chitchat when you’re trying to concentrate, no office drama to navigate, and no commute into the office. But community and personal belonging are hugely important drivers in whether or not an employee stays with an organization, and that is just as true for remote workers. As the leader of a remote team, you need to be aware that your employees may be satisfied with some pieces of the remote life while feeling unfulfilled by others. This is especially true if your team is partially remote and partially in an office together.

    • How to lead on this: They may not ask for it — and they may not even realize that they need it — but take the time to build a real community with your remote workers. This can range from a weekly phone call check-in, to video chats, to flying them out for an annual celebration of the entire team. If you’re not sure about how to start these traditions, simply check in with them. Asking, “Do you feel connected with the team?” could be the start to an enlightening conversation, and can help you calibrate your leadership to their specific needs.

  • Trust. Being the leader of a team who manages remote workers requires an agility and flexibility like no other. You need to completely rethink your own approach to leadership when you have no way to visually check in on your employee’s progress, mood, or performance. The key piece to keep in mind is that no two remote workers will need the same kind of management, just the same as no two in-office employees will be exactly the same. Some may crave constant feedback, some may want to be left alone unless an issue arises, and still others may need something in between.

    • How to lead on this: Don’t assume that your remote worker prefers infrequent check-ins just because they don’t ask for help; if anything, you should check in more since they don’t have the benefit of casually asking coworkers for assistance throughout the day. Of course, the flipside is to avoid micromanagement: when you contact your remote workers, try to avoid questions like, “What are you working on right now?" — especially over email. This line of questioning can be easily misconstrued and create a defensive response pattern. If you’re unsure of how to best determine their style, just ask — and don’t be afraid to be honest. “I want to make sure that I give you the type of guidance you need. What are your thoughts on how I can best support you?” Or, you can also share your typical management approach with your remote workers and discuss which pieces work well for them and which pieces need to be customized.

Remote workers may be a new norm, but leaders of remote teams still have a lot to learn. Make it a partnership and you’ll both be surprised at how much you grow.

Managing Remote Workers

Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. is a Project Consultant at PSI based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include testing, assessments, and project management. Jaclyn has contributed to the development, validation, and implementation of assessments with various clients. She has managed, analyzed, and presented data analyses for content and criterion validation studies.