Get tips on managing remote employees to create a work environment where employee engagement, morale, and productivity come together to create success.
Remote work has been on the rise for years. While the trend was evident long before the coronavirus pandemic, the crisis led to a major and sudden shift that found many enterprises quickly transitioning to remote operations. Now that remote work has become the norm, it’s a good time to take a closer look at the best approaches for successfully managing remote workers. This will not only help you take advantage of the many benefits offered by remote work, but it will also help support a culture of trust and empowerment in the workplace.
At ActivTrak, we are committed to supporting remote workforces, no matter what form they take. In this article, we’ll address some of the challenges of managing remote employees and give you concrete tips that you can leverage to create a more successful remote workforce — a workforce that goes beyond video conferencing and instant messaging to engage with and support remote team members.
Determining the Right Type of Remote Workforce for Your Business
Before we can start talking about the best ways to manage remote workers, it’s important to review the different types of remote workforces that enterprises can adopt. After all, the management of your employees will look different depending on what their work arrangement looks like. There are 4 primary types of remote workforces:
Telecommuting or working from home in a single time zone: This is probably what most people think of when they think of remote work. In most cases, enterprises still keep physical office spaces, though employees have the option to choose their work environment and are usually only required to come into the office on occasion, if at all.
Remote work from multiple time zones: This setup is the same as the previous option, except that remote teams can work from multiple time zones (either any time zone or any of a select number). This gives employers access to an even bigger talent pool to find new employees.
Work from anywhere: This is the most open remote work option, letting employees work from anywhere they want and letting them move around geographically whenever they want. At a time when many millennials and Gen Zers seek out jobs that offer flexibility and want the ability to move around freely, this is a great option.
Hybrid work: Hybrid work is a middle ground between any of these options and the fully in-person work environment that many enterprises used to have. In a hybrid environment, employees can work from a home office for part of the week but are usually required to come in at least once a week. This has the added benefit of offering an opportunity for face-to-face team meetings and social interaction.
No matter which remote work setup you choose, you’ll need to effectively navigate some common managerial challenges in order to succeed.
The Challenges of Managing Remote Employees
Although there are many benefits to working from home — happier employees, reduced costs, increased employee retention, and more — there are also some challenges that naturally arise when it comes to managing remote teams. The good news is that these challenges are easily mitigated with a little forethought and some analytics.
The biggest challenges include:
- Managing productivity: Although some employees may thrive in a remote environment (65% of remote workers say they’re more productive in a home office than a traditional office setting), others struggle with the new distractions present in this space. That can hinder productivity and make it harder to keep employees engaged.
- Long-distance collaboration: Some remote workers struggle to adapt to remote communication tools like Slack and Zoom and instead miss the face-to-face interaction that once defined the modern workplace. Luckily, there are many collaboration tools that can help address this issue and the implementation of other forms of social interaction, like virtual happy hours, can bring a sense of community back to the office.
Tips for Successfully Managing Remote Workers
There is no set rulebook for managing remote workers. There will always be room for nuance and managers should be ready to adjust their approaches to best fit their specific circumstances. However, there are several tips that can make for more effective remote management no matter the enterprise:
- Create a remote work policy: Now that businesses are settling into a remote environment after the coronavirus pandemic, one of the first things leaders should do to foster effective team management is to create a remote work or flexible work policy. In it, you can lay out your clear expectations for remote workers that cover everything from expected work hours to which collaboration tools they should be using. This is also a great place to address any new perks that come with the job like happy hours, virtual water cooler conversations, and other team-building activities. You can find templates for these policies here.
- Ensure software tools are well-integrated: After enterprises make the switch to a remote environment, many find that their apps and systems aren’t well-integrated. From accessibility issues due to the bandwidth of an organization’s VPN to the discovery of apps that don’t work well outside the firewall, there are a lot of technical difficulties that can hamper remote employee productivity. To mitigate this challenge, ensure all of your software tools are well-integrated and be prepared to invest in additional remote technology. Remote workforce management software can deliver user activity insights so you can identify and resolve software-based bottlenecks.
- Use workplace monitoring to track productivity: One of the best tips for managing remote teams is to implement workplace monitoring, not as a form of spying on your remote employees, but as a way to support them more effectively. Unlike check-ins and virtual meetings that only offer a surface-level understanding of a remote worker’s experience, a monitoring solution uses data to help you understand how your remote teams are working. That empowers you to offer more targeted support as part of your remote management efforts.
- Identify and address the operational practices causing bottlenecks: There might be operational practices in your enterprise that are slowing down workflows or preventing your team members from doing their best work. Some of these practices may be so commonplace that you don’t even notice them! For example, the 2019 Telecommuting statistics by Owl Labs found that the biggest challenge remote employees face is being interrupted or talked over during video calls and other virtual meetings, according to 67% of respondents. One way to address this would be by offering better communication tools for remote employees and by calling out this problematic behavior whenever it occurs, whether it’s on a Zoom video conference or during a face-to-face interaction.
Other practices may have to do with specific workflows and the ways that remote teams approach their work. Solutions like ActivTrak can deliver data-driven insights that help managers more easily understand employee workflows and identify what’s working and not working for your remote team members. Leveraging this activity and productivity data will help you identify key areas of your operational policies that need to be adjusted to support remote workers.
- Take steps to prevent overwork and burnout: Avoiding employee burnout and overwork is one of the most important — and most difficult — elements of managing remote employees. For many people the home office effectively eliminates the divide between home life and work life, meaning work hours often bleed into personal time. In addition to promoting messaging that supports a healthy work-life balance, the best way to prevent these problems without micromanaging team members’ work schedules is by using remote management software that helps both you and your remote employees keep track of the hours they’re working. If you see specific team members consistently working long hours, you can take steps to rebalance workloads and encourage employees to take time for themselves.
Leveraging Workforce Analytics for Better Remote Workforce Management
The best way to successfully manage remote workers in the new landscape is with a productivity monitoring and workforce analytics solution like ActivTrak. ActivTrak’s solutions deliver unprecedented visibility into your remote teams so you can identify inefficient processes, unbalanced workloads, and more, empowering you to create a healthier and more productive workplace.
When you use ActivTrak, you get:
- Reliable engagement insights: One of the best ways to boost employee morale and productivity is by increasing employee engagement. With ActivTrak, you can get visibility into key stats including focus time, work hours, app usage, and more, all of which can help you understand your remote employee engagement and generate insights you can use to make positive changes.
- Insight into process issues: ActivTrak’s workforce analytics software delivers a bird’s eye view of your activity while also offering granular context into workflows so you can see exactly where things are working well and pinpoint where problems exist.
- Less burnout and more balance: ActivTrak makes it easy to see who’s at risk of burnout thanks to the platform’s clear dashboards and reports. You can see workload distribution at a glance and identify which employees have workloads that are too heavy or too light. These features also help team managers make effective resourcing decisions and ensure that no one feels overworked.
Manage Remote Employees with Success Using Workforce Analytics Software
There are many benefits to the new remote work landscape, but without the proper tools, it can be difficult to make the most of them. At ActivTrak, we believe the best way to manage remote teams with success is by leveraging remote workforce management and workforce analytics tools. These solutions deliver the real-time insights you need to create a positive work environment where employee engagement, operational efficiency, and productivity go hand-in-hand. By combining the tips outlined above with a workforce analytics tool, managers have the opportunity to transform the way their remote teams work.
- Implement remote work policies with clear expectations so your employees know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.
- When you monitor employee activity and productivity, make sure to focus on transparency and on answering the question “How do you work?” instead of “Are you working?” Always avoid micromanaging!
- Emphasize the importance of work-life balance for employees and take steps to rebalance workloads if you see certain employees frequently working long work hours.