All Articles Leadership Management 15 tips for managing remote workers

15 tips for managing remote workers

6 min read


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Q. What is one management best practice you use specifically with remote workers and why?

1. Weekly Skype meetings

Experienced remote employees manage their time and weekly tasks well without much supervision. However, if there’s one BIG best practice for managing remotes, it’s this: Hold what-do-you-need-help-with Skype meetings once a week (I prefer Tuesdays). If your remote employee gets stuck or doesn’t know what to work on next, this is the meeting that will catch and address those problems. – Juha Liikala, Stripped Bare Media

2. Telepresence robots

With the Double Telepresence Robot, it’s unfathomable that we used to work remotely in any other way. Now, whether it’s our full-time remote workers, someone who is sick or people who are traveling, you can pilot the robot over to have face-to-face conversations, attend meetings and have people see your emotional reaction. You are as much a part of the culture as anyone else. It’s amazing. — Brennan White, Cortex

3. Random check-ins

My team is remote and we’re all working on different things. So if it’s been a few days since I talked to one of my employees, I will randomly give them a call. These short, unscheduled calls are great for catching up and seeing how the employee is feeling (is he/she overwhelmed, excited, aggravated) and why. This way I know what’s going on and the employee feels valued and not forgotten. — Rachel Rodgers, Rachel Rodgers Law Office

4. Online project management

Using an app-enabled online project management tool such as Basecamp allows you to see exactly how your remote employees are doing with specific projects, allowing you to avoid unnecessary emails and time-sapping phone calls. If there are any red flags, such as overdue milestones or dormant projects, it’s easy to see and to follow up. — Grant Gordon, Solomon Consulting Group

5. Clear accountability

Make sure tasks are assigned with clear and measurable deliverables, starting with short timeframes and extending to longer durations over time. Allow employees to do their tasks without checking in until it’s time. Lastly, as President Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” — Tommy Golczynski, Assured Flow Solutions LLC

6. Milestones

At verynice, we leverage a network of over 350 volunteers and contractors to support us in the execution of our work. One management best practice we use, aside from constant communication, is setting “too many” milestones. We celebrate small deliverables and break projects into a lot of pieces to make progress easier to track, and time management more transparent. — Matthew Manos, verynice

7. Meetings, meetings, meetings

At SmartBooks, we manage our 40 full-time remote employees with clearly defined activities and metrics that we track daily and review with our respective teams weekly via GoToMeeting and conference calls. Every week, managers have a one-hour team meeting; a one-hour, one-on-one meeting with each teammate; two 30-minute check-in meetings with team; two 15-minute check-in meetings with management; and a 90-minute management meeting. — Enrico Palmerino, SmartBooks

8. Weekly goals

At the beginning of the week, team leaders help each remote worker to come up with 3-5 weekly goals. Weekly goals not only allow the worker to run independently during the week, they also keep them accountable. At the end of the week, the team leaders review which goals were achieved and which will carry over to the following week. — Pratham Mittal, VenturePact

9. Virtual team building and success stories

Often, remote workers feel disconnected from the organization as a whole. During our weekly meetings, I always start with either a team-building exercise or weekly success stories. It is an opportunity for my teams to get to know one other, and it is a refreshing activity to focus on success versus deadlines and deliverables, both of which will always be there. — Tamara Nall, The Leading Niche

10. 15Five and iDoneThis

I use 15Five for “automated” weekly one-on-ones in addition to my “real” one-on-one meetings. I use iDoneThis to see what people have accomplished on a daily basis. Are they working on the things that matter? Are they struggling? This helps me keep a better overall pulse on my company. — Eric Siu, Single Grain

11. Trust

It comes down to trusting your team (and their teams) to do what they need to do. If you’ve hire the right people who can self-manage and be semi-independent, then the best thing you can do is to trust them. Be there when needed, and not when you’re not. We check in often via IM, texts and email. We also do a lot of Google Hangouts and conference calls. — Roberto Angulo, AfterCollege

12. Overlapping work schedules

Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked with teams in India, Russia, Poland, France, the UK, Korea, Uruguay and Argentina. I’ve found that having a couple hours of overlap with your remote workers has been the most helpful. By adapting your schedule slightly (starting a little earlier, ending a little later), you can touch base at the start or end of their day to help keep them on the right track. — Philippe Clavel, Rabbit

13. Weekly one-on-ones and team collaboration

Have your reporting managers dedicate time with remote workers for weekly one-on-ones. Ask questions, raise challenges and discuss new ideas. It’s equally as important for each business function to have their own communicate streams with remote workers to keep everyone in the know. Send key players to remote markets, host monthly team meetings and in-office training sessions. — Kelsey Recht, VenueBook

14. A 15-minute weekly sync

I’ve worked with remote teams ranging from pre-launch startups to “the Amazon of China” and built a few of my own. One thing consistently rips teams apart: falling out of sync. A short, weekly engagement call works wonders to reveal what’s really going on. Ask about life — not just work. Show them they’re valued, that you care. Nothing gets a team fired up like authentic connection. Give it a try. — Chris Cashwell, Sonic Payments

15. Hiring self-starters

I like to set up boundaries for remote workers to regularly have physical interaction with one another on a weekly basis. Depending on who the hire is, remote workers can sometimes be more productive than workers in the office. I only hire those who have an overwhelming sense of ambition and drive, and do not have to be a watchdog for. — Gerald Wilmink, WiseWear Corp.