Managing and Leading Remote Employees

Employees Working Remotely

One of the most significant opportunities and challenges facing today’s managers is the ability to effectively manage and lead employees who are working remotely. Although this may change somewhat—going to more hybrid work arrangements, for example—please understand that this situation is NOT going away.

According to Forbes, as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% work a hybrid model. By 2025, 32.6 million Americans will work remotely. Consequently, managers and leaders must not only embrace this fact but begin immediately to modify and adjust their management and leadership styles to accommodate the remote worker.

Leaders must refine their ability to direct employees in an environment that does not allow for face-to-face interaction on a minute-by-minute basis. As a result, we must be prepared to develop a clear and comprehensive focus on (1) effective communication, (2) a process for “checking in,” and (3) precise goals and expectations. Equally important will be for leaders to be able to utilize the technology that is available to them to assist in this process.

While this is an area that is still very new to us as leaders, I feel there are several practical ways to drive remote leadership skills.

  • Hold regularly scheduled sessions to promote clear and concise communication. Keep these sacred, meaning they should not be canceled or rescheduled unless absolutely necessary.
  • From day one, make sure everyone is on the same page by setting goals and expectations and defining specific tasks, duties, and responsibilities.
  • Use all the technical tools that are available to ensure compliance and success for all parties.
  • Schedule formal reviews and performance evaluations, but also plan on periodic, informal follow-ups.
  • Prepare to review and discuss work-life balance. Specifically address the possible tendency to work too many hours and not succumbing to diversions at home that can lead to poor productivity and performance.

A manager’s ability to lead with purpose will be critical to both the success of their team and their own success. Personally, I am spending more and more time asking (and challenging) my client owners to be sure they are defining and living a clear and meaningful vision that helps drive success for themselves and their employees. And proactive organizations are not only encouraging but requiring their leadership teams to seek out and engage in their own personal training and development so that they are better equipped to successfully manage their remote workers.

To date, the data and research highlighting what successful leaders are doing to engage remote workers revolves around one main theme: ensuring that all workers feel a sense of belonging. The ability to foster team cohesiveness, organize team building activities, provide constant feedback, and celebrate successes big and small will go a long way toward accomplishing this goal.

In the training and development arena, there is a growing recognition of the importance of going beyond the numbers, so to speak, and prioritizing employee well-being. Given the significant number of employees who are or will be working remotely, now more than ever, leaders need to use their purpose to both inspire and motivate their employees. As has always been the case, effective leadership is best exemplified through leading by example. When dealing with remote employees, leaders must be more flexible, more adaptable, and more available than ever before.

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