How to Work Successfully with Remote Employees

Working remotely, at least part time, is becoming a more accepted and common work arrangement. This presents new challenges for supervisors (especially for those who entered the workforce when working off-site wasn’t an option for anyone). What are some ways managers can make sure they get the most out of their remote employees? Are there certain procedures they should set up to ensure a seamless, successful, productive relationship with their remote workers?

Working remotely definitely can be a tricky proposition for both managers and the off-site workers they supervise, says Susan Peppercorn, executive coach and founder of Positive Workplace Partners.

Based on years of experience, Peppercorn offers the following tips to help managers work successfully with what she refers to “distributed staff members.”

  1. Clarify deliverables and timelines.

When employees work remotely, it’s critical that both parties are on the same page when it comes to expectations around deliverables and deadlines. “Synching goals is important when people work in the same location, too, but if a misunderstanding occurs between supervisor and subordinate in the same place, they can resolve it face-to-face,” Peppercorn says. “It’s harder to course correct on the fly when the people you manage are physically distant from you, even part of the time.”

  1. Discuss communication preferences.

Managers and employees often assume that they understand how and when they want to share information. That isn’t necessarily true.

“When a subordinate asks to work remotely, this is the time for the manager to clarify how they want to receive information, especially if they are unfamiliar with remote working arrangements,” Peppercorn says. “Do you want to have a daily check-in by video conference or phone? Do you prefer updates in writing in a project plan or a spreadsheet? Make sure your remote employees know what you expect. Don’t expect them to read your mind!”

  1. Use technology to its fullest.

Technology offers enormous potential to bridge the physical divide a remote work arrangement creates. “If the supervisor is unfamiliar with the technology options that can be used, such as Slack channels, video conferencing, Google hangouts or other tools; it’s imperative they get comfortable with them — and ditto for their staff,” Peppercorn stresses.

(Article written by Kathleen Furore)