Managing remote workers

With more of us wanting to run our own race rather than the rat race, remote working is now used as a tool to attract and retain good staff.

Managing employees working outside the office is a real skill, writes Anton Levchuk, marketing director of remote support technology maker Famatech.

The prerequisite for successful remote working is to clearly define the role. Employer and employee need to agree on how the relationship will work so that there is no confusion.

Communication is vital. Remote working can be a lonely business which can lead to confusion and stagnation – and even a bit of paranoia. As a manager it’s important to understand the person you are managing. Taking the initiative to talk through the role with them first can be constructive.

Once the groundwork has been discussed you can then get into more detail. Decide how often you both feel comfortable communicating. Agree on the best ways of communicating as well. Emails should not entirely substitute the phone, and remote working tools can allow employees the capability to access an office PC from anywhere.

Setting realistic goals

Work to objectives. Maintain a clear set of targets, laid out on a daily, weekly or possibly monthly basis. Instigating guidelines and targets will help to focus and structure the remote worker’s schedule and yours. The main objective is to try and stop anyone feeling that they are out of the loop.

If you are introducing remote working as a response to problems the employee is having, be aware that it is not a panacea. During initial discussions it may well be that a wider conversation is required about how the employee enjoys their work and their working environment – this may raise some interesting points.

Managers should not shy away from deciding that an individual is unsuitable to work remotely. This can be difficult, but managers will usually know whether the individual will take the role seriously. While some remote workers feel that they put in more hours than they do in the office, others find the draw of the kettle and the remote control difficult to reject.

Former CEO of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca, famously said that ‘management is nothing more than motivating other people’. All of the above advice should help to achieve that main goal of keeping a remote worker motivated and enthused. Offices may be stuffy, stressful and full of distractions but they can provide energy, focus and inspiration. However, with the right drive most remote workers can be just as productive as their office-based colleagues.

See also: What do remote first companies offer employees?

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.