Remote work is becoming increasingly status quo. A CNBC report this year revealed that nearly 70% of workers globally work remotely at least once a week.

Some organizations hire full time remote workers out of necessity for presence in dispersed geographical reasons, others do so to accommodate the needs of their essential employees.

Trends in the digital economy point to remote work becoming even more common. For a lot of organizations, this will help attract top talent with evolving attitudes toward traditional work environments. Many job seekers view the flexibility of working remote at least some of the time to as a major perk.

Adam Kingl, former director of learning solutions at the London Business School, notes that flexibility is the number one element that attracts millennials to a workplace.

On the other hand, this shift towards remote working also presents challenges when it comes to how to effectively manage those workers, especially within organizations for which the concept still remains unconventional.

So let's explore some of the ways to effectively balance accountability and autonomy when managing remote workers.

Provide the necessary tools

In order to allow for remote work, it’s imperative to equip people with the right tools for success. This ranges from hardware such as quality laptops and monitors to proper enterprise software.

Many companies have migrated applications to the cloud to allow company access from any computer (for security purposes, ensure these applications require multi-step authentication). Companies looking to expand globally or make room for remote work stand to benefit immensely from investments in cloud computing.

Set clear expectations

When managing any employee or project or service, it’s imperative to set clear and quantifiable expectations up front. Without documenting these metrics, it’s nearly impossible to measure success.

For remote workers, this will depend on the position. For example, sales people will certainly need to hit a certain revenue target and maintain an expected level of active leads in their pipeline. Software engineers may need to complete certain projects by a set date.

Whatever the expectations are, make sure they are clearly communicated, documented and measured.

Check in regularly

A common management practice is to “walk the floor”. Essentially, managers walk around the office checking in with employees individually. Some may view this as hovering, but it can prove effective when taking a pulse check on day to day activities and obtaining progress updates.

Checking in on remote workers is essential. Managers need to check in regularly - preferably daily - to keep tabs on productivity, while also building relationships with remote workers.

When direct reports work remotely, set aside time for regular one- on- one virtual meetings. That way the employee can prepare questions, status updates and feedback making it a more productive use of time. Regularly planned meetings also feel less intrusive than spontaneous "check ins" making the remote work still feel as autonomous as possible.

Encourage spontaneous communication

Harvard Business Review notes that unplanned conversations between colleagues promotes “important flows of knowledge through an organization”.

Those who have worked in an office setting understand this. When faced with a challenge or when coming up with an idea, it’s normal to casually converse about it with a coworker. These interactions help us both as individuals and as organizations succeed.

In the remote world, managers will need to facilitate ways for employees to still hold “water cooler” conversations. HBR recommends leveraging Skype or WebEx for live collaboration among colleagues. Google Docs also allows for live document editing that can facilitate idea sharing.

International coworkers can also use professional communications tools like Guild for fast, secure instant messaging.

Build rapport with employees

Facilitating communication also helps build rapport with direct reports and between peers. Building rapport stems from talking about things other than work. It involves getting to know the complete person versus the employee. These relationships play a pivotal role when it comes time to collaborate or conversely when managers need to make unpopular decisions.

When communicating virtually with full time remote employees it’s easy to cut right to the necessities. Make time to cultivate meaningful relationships through your regular interactions.

Meet in person

Meet in person when possible. Despite advancements in virtual tools, nothing can truly substitute for face-to-face interaction.

Visiting remote workers especially during the early stages will help establish a comfort level as well as set the tone for the relationship. Holding new employee orientation at headquarters serves as the best method for onboarding remote workers.

When possible, allow for remote employees to travel to get together as a group or attend company events. This will help them feel a part of the community, build trust and espouse company culture.

If your organization employs a lot of remote workers, set an annual company meeting if the budget allows for it. Offsites are becoming increasingly popular, as an alternative to gathering distributed teams at the HQ.

Take advantage of shared work spaces

Shared work spaces such as WeWork allow for small businesses, startups and remote workers to reap the benefits of working in an office at an economical price.

If possible, offer your remote workers a desk at a shared work space in their city. This will allow for them to work without the distractions of home and maintain personal interactions with other professionals working in the space.

Treat remote and local equally

Ultimately, managing remote workers should not differ from managing local ones. Remote workers need to meet the same accountability and performance standards as their local peers.

Likewise, don't let their hard work go unnoticed! Remember to help drive their career development goals. Holding remote and local workers to the same standards will help maintain high employee retention and morale as well as maximize ROI.

Remote job opportunities

For many workers, the ability to work remote may be the number one motivation for applying to a job opening. Being a successful remote worker requires discipline, a high level of accountability and extremely effective virtual communication skills.

Workers who can demonstrate these characteristics will be competitive candidates for remote positions. Glassdoor frequently publishes lists of companies looking for remote workers that range from health insurance to tech to education.

The future of work will allow for many jobs to go remote at least part of the time. As workers increasingly prefer flexibility, think about how your organization can create remote accommodations as it may make all the difference when recruiting top talent.

Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash.

Join Guild for free today

See for yourself how the Guild experience is different to WhatsApp, Slack, LinkedIn or Facebook Groups.  

Go to our pricing page and join free as a member, create your Guild profile, join available groups and build your network.  

Ready to run your own professional, private, branded groups, communities or networks? Excellent! Check out our Business (free) and Business Plus (custom pricing) options.  

Guild is proudly British, fiercely independent, ad-free and GDPR compliant. Guild is the best place for professionals to connect and communicate. Come and join us on a different and decent kind of messaging platform that is designed for business and done with integrity.

Contact us if you want to know more or have any questions.