A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers (2022)

Summary.

With the Covid-19 epidemic, many employees — and their managers — are finding themselves working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare. First, it’s important to understand the common challenges, from isolation to distractions to lack of face-to-face supervision. Then managers can support remote workers with 1) regular, structured check-ins; 2) multiple communication options (and established norms for each; 3) opportunities for social interactions; and 4) ongoing encouragement and emotional support.

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(Video) Remote working: HBR Guide to Managing Your Newly Remote Workers (Module 7.5)

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In response to the uncertainties presented by Covid-19, many companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely. While close to a quarter of the U.S. workforce already works from home at least part of the time, the new policies leave many employees — and their managers — working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time.

Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.

Common Challenges of Remote Work

To start, managers need to understand factors that can make remote work especially demanding. Otherwise high-performing employees may experience declines in job performance and engagement when they begin working remotely, especially in the absence of preparation and training. Challenges inherent in remote work include:

Lack of face-to-face supervision: Both managers and their employees often express concerns about the lack of face-to-face interaction. Supervisors worry that employees will not work as hard or as efficiently (though research indicates otherwise, at least for some types of jobs). Many employees, on the other hand, struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication. In some cases, employees feel that remote managers are out of touch with their needs, and thereby are neither supportive nor helpful in getting their work done.

Lack of access to information: Newly remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers. Even getting answers to what seem like simple questions can feel like a large obstacle to a worker based at home.

(Video) Hot Topics- Ep 07 - Manage: A short guide to managing your newly remote workers

This phenomenon extends beyond task-related work to interpersonal challenges that can emerge among remote coworkers. Research has found that a lack of “mutual knowledge” among remote workers translates to a lower willingness to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations. For example, if you know that your officemate is having a rough day, you will view a brusque email from them as a natural product of their stress. However, if you receive this email from a remote coworker, with no understanding of their current circumstances, you are more likely to take offense, or at a minimum to think poorly of your coworker’s professionalism.

Social isolation:Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. It is thought that extraverts may suffer from isolation more in the short run, particularly if they do not have opportunities to connect with others in their remote-work environment. However, over a longer period of time, isolation can cause any employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization, and can even result in increased intention to leave the company.

Distractions at home:We often see photos representing remote work which portray a parent holding a child and typing on a laptop, often sitting on a sofa or living-room floor. In fact, this is a terrible representation of effective virtual work. Typically, we encourage employers to ensure that their remote workers have both dedicated workspace and adequate childcare before allowing them to work remotely. Yet, in the case of a sudden transition to virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will be contending with suboptimal workspaces and (in the case of school and daycare closures) unexpected parenting responsibilities. Even in normal circumstances family and home demands can impinge on remote work; managers should expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.

How Managers Can Support Remote Employees

As much as remote work can be fraught with challenges, there are also relatively quick and inexpensive things that managers can do to ease the transition. Actions that you can take today include:

Establish structured daily check-ins:Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees. This could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls, if your employees work more independently from each other, or a team call, if their work is highly collaborative. The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable, and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.

Provide several different communication technology options:Email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face. Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for smaller groups: Visual cues allow for increased “mutual knowledge” about coworkers and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.

There are other circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. For these situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.

(Video) A Guide to Managing Your Newly Remote Workers PART 1

Further Reading

If your company doesn’t have technology tools already in place, there are inexpensive ways to obtain simple versions of these tools for your team, as a short-term fix. Consult with your organization’s IT department to ensure there is an appropriate level of data security before using any of these tools.

And then establish “rules of engagement”:Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but we use IM when something is urgent.” Also, if you can, let your employees know the best way and time to reach you during the workday (e.g., “I tend to be more available late in the day for ad hoc phone or video conversations, but if there’s an emergency earlier in the day, send me a text.”) Finally, keep an eye on communication among team members (to the extent appropriate), to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.

We recommend that managers establish these “rules of engagement” with employees as soon as possible, ideally during the first online check-in meeting. While some choices about specific expectations may be better than others, the most important factor is that all employees share the same set of expectations for communication.

Provide opportunities for remote social interaction:One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.

The easiest way to establish some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items (e.g., “We’re going to spend the first few minutes just catching up with each other. How was your weekend?”). Other options include virtual pizza parties (in which pizza is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference), or virtual office parties (in which party “care packages” can be sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously). While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experienced managers of remote workers (and the workers themselves) report that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging.

Offer encouragement and emotional support:Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote work, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. If a newly remote employee is clearly struggling but not communicating stress or anxiety, ask them how they’re doing. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can elicit important information that you might not otherwise hear. Once you ask the question, be sure to listen carefully to the response, and briefly restate it back to the employee, to ensure that you understood correctly. Let the employee’s stress or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of this conversation.

Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion tells us that employees look to their managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations. If a manager communicates stress and helplessness, this will have what Daniel Goleman calls a “trickle-down” effect on employees. Effective leaders take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmation of their confidence in their teams, using phrases such as “we’ve got this,” or “this is tough, but I know we can handle it,” or “let’s look for ways to use our strengths during this time.” With this support, employees are more likely to take up the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus.

(Video) Guide To Managing (Newly) Remote Teams

We’ll add our own note of encouragement to managers facing remote work for the first time: you’ve got this. Let us know in the comments your own tips for managing your remote employees.

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FAQs

How do you manage new employees remotely? ›

Managing remote employees: 8 tips and best practices
  1. Understand common work from home challenges. ...
  2. Set clear remote work productivity standards. ...
  3. Identify and provide the right tools. ...
  4. Set aside specific days, times and methods for team interaction. ...
  5. Follow up with remote employees regularly.

What are the 9 best ways to manage remote workers? ›

Coronavirus Essentials: 9 Tips for Managing Remote Employees
  1. Set expectations. ...
  2. Provide the right tools. ...
  3. Communicate frequently. ...
  4. Communicate with video. ...
  5. Create a culture of direct, open virtual communications. ...
  6. Solicit input from co-workers of your remote employees.

What are the 3 attributes that makes you best remote worker? ›

The Qualities of a Successful Remote Employee
  • Communication.
  • Collaborative.
  • Independent worker.
  • Self-starter.
  • Works with little direction.
  • Produces impactful work.
  • Focused.
  • Time management.

What are the 3 do's and don'ts of managing employees who work from home? ›

The dos and don'ts of working from home
  • Do maintain regular contact with your team. ...
  • Don't snack all day. ...
  • Do dress appropriately. ...
  • Don't turn the TV on. ...
  • Do invest in the right equipment. ...
  • Don't work from anywhere. ...
  • Do decorate your workspace. ...
  • Don't forget to take regular breaks.
18 Mar 2020

What makes a good remote manager? ›

Be visible and approachable

Being a remote manager means building a support system for your team, while at the same time striking a balance to hold them accountable. Building trust, maintaining transparency, communicating frequently and openly, and ensuring a supportive working environment are critical for success.

What is the most important quality of being a remote worker? ›

Communicative

Easily one of the most important characteristics of a successful remote employee, top-notch communication skills are essential to your remote work success.

What do you consider important for effective remote work? ›

Some important skills required for remote work include being a self-starter who is accountable, disciplined, and an organized problem-solver. Punctuality, adaptability, effective communication and strong time-management skills are also essential to remote work.

How do you engage remote employees in 5 simple steps? ›

5 ways to engage your remote employees
  1. Ditch micromanagement. Remote work is quite a grey area for managers. ...
  2. Show transparency (and vulnerability) Transparency is not limited to workflows. ...
  3. Digitize your rewards and recognition program. ...
  4. Prioritize wellness (especially mental) ...
  5. More communication (but make it meaningful)
27 Dec 2021

How would you manage a remote team without burning out? ›

6 Practical Ways to Combat Stress & Burnout in Remote Teams
  1. Build a People-centered Culture. ...
  2. Make Well-being a Priority in Your Policies & Processes. ...
  3. Lead by Example. ...
  4. Train Your Managers. ...
  5. Reduce Zoom Fatigue. ...
  6. Offer Well-being Benefits. ...
  7. Build a People-centered Culture. ...
  8. Make Well-being a Priority in Your Policies & Processes.
15 Jun 2022

What are five 5 techniques for effective collaboration in the context of a remote team working environment? ›

Five principles for collaborating in a remote team
  • Align your team around a shared vision. ...
  • Communicate in the context of your projects. ...
  • Set expectations for communication. ...
  • Make the most of meetings. ...
  • Prioritize in-depth work.

What is most challenging for you about remote work? ›

For Melissa, in general, the biggest obstacle to quality remote work are poor routines: “It is very easy to create a poor routine as a remote worker. This might include overworking, isolation, allowing too many meetings, and not enough face-to-face interaction.

What are your top 3 challenges in finding remote work? ›

7 Remote Work Challenges and How to Overcome Them
  • Technical Failures. ...
  • Poor Workplace Communication. ...
  • Working Across Different Time Zones. ...
  • Productivity Issues. ...
  • Distractions. ...
  • Lack of Social Interaction. ...
  • Stress and Burnout.
30 Jul 2022

Which 2 Personal qualities are important when you work from home? ›

5 Qualities Needed for Working From Home
  • Impressive Self-Motivation.
  • Excellent Time Management Skills.
  • Outstanding Communication Skills.
  • Continuous Adaptability.
  • Notable Self-Confidence.

How do I manage remote teams virtually? ›

How do you overcome the challenges of managing virtual teams?
  1. Allow flexible work hours.
  2. Undergo virtual teams training.
  3. Nurture a reward-driven environment.
  4. Organize meetings according to different time zones.
  5. Ask for progress reports.
  6. Use communication tools.
  7. Use management tools.
28 Feb 2022

How do you manage employees effectively? ›

7 Tips on Managing Your Employees Effectively
  1. Hire the best.
  2. Measure the performance of employees regularly.
  3. Communicating openly is key.
  4. Encourage employees to share their opinions.
  5. Set clear goals.
  6. Reward hard work.
  7. Ensure that employees enjoy working.

How do you keep remote workers accountable? ›

3 Ways to Keep Remote Workers Accountable
  • Clear Goals. Make sure employees understand exactly what is expected of them at the outset of every project or assignment. ...
  • Regular Check-Ins. When employees are working remotely, staying in touch is especially important. ...
  • Giving Feedback.
4 Nov 2021

What are the top 3 skills of a manager? ›

Robert Katz identifies three types of skills that are essential for a successful management process: Technical skills. Conceptual skills. Human or interpersonal management skills.

What are the 5 skills of a manager? ›

  • What are Management Skills? ...
  • Management Skills #1: Relationship Management. ...
  • Management Skills #2: Planning. ...
  • Management Skills #3: Prioritisation. ...
  • Management Skills #4: Critical Thinking. ...
  • Management Skills #5: Industry Knowledge.
5 Aug 2021

What are the top 5 qualities of a manager? ›

And without these skills and qualities, your employees and the workplace could suffer.
...
  • Good managers know how to communicate. ...
  • Good managers know how to listen. ...
  • Good managers lead with confidence. ...
  • Good managers care about and take care of their teams. ...
  • Good managers are authentic.
9 Aug 2021

What are the top 2 challenges that you faced when working remotely with your team? ›

Employee Loyalty and Retention

In some cases, remote work isolation can also lead to employees feeling less connected towards employers despite being valued members of the organization. These issues can potentially lead to high attrition rates even with the best work-life balance offered.

What are the 3 conditions that define remote working? ›

Remote work requires policies governing equipment use, network security and performance expectations.

How do you keep a remote employee motivated? ›

15 attractive ways to boost remote employees motivation
  1. Offer health benefits. ...
  2. Show you care. ...
  3. Provide best tools for remote workers. ...
  4. Extend innovative incentives. ...
  5. Show your face. ...
  6. Give importance to employee feedback. ...
  7. Use communication as the key. ...
  8. Don't be afraid to experiment.

How do you make a new remote employee feel connected? ›

  1. How to make remote employees feel connected to a company.
  2. Keep an open line of communication.
  3. Provide honest, frequent feedback.
  4. Use collaboration tools.
  5. Hold weekly video meetings.
  6. Be clear in your communications.
  7. Empower employees with flexibility.
  8. Establish fun company traditions.

How do you make a remote team feel connected? ›

10 Creative Ways to Help Your Remote Team Feel Connected
  1. Virtual Water Cooler Chats. ...
  2. Multiplayer Gaming. ...
  3. Virtual 3D Meetings. ...
  4. Virtual Movie Nights. ...
  5. Virtual Brainstorming Sessions. ...
  6. Video Collaboration. ...
  7. Community Chats. ...
  8. Book Club.
2 Jun 2022

How can remote teamwork be improved? ›

5 Strategies for Improving Remote Teamwork
  1. Build a Foundation of Trust / Grant Team Members Autonomy. One of the biggest concerns companies have about remote work is the loss of control. ...
  2. Default to Overcommunicating. ...
  3. Set Healthy Boundaries. ...
  4. Make Time for Deep Work. ...
  5. Build an Inclusive Team Culture.
27 Jan 2021

What are the top 10 skills to improve collaboration? ›

Examples of collaboration skills
  • Written and verbal communication. ...
  • Active listening. ...
  • Emotional intelligence. ...
  • Organization. ...
  • Trust. ...
  • Set precise goals. ...
  • Be open-minded. ...
  • Celebrate collaboration and the successes it brings.

How can we integrate new team members while working remotely? ›

For this article, we are going to go over some of the effective ways to welcome new remote work to your team.
  1. Set up a remote onboarding process. ...
  2. Stir up some excitement. ...
  3. Company-wide video call. ...
  4. Invite them into social channels. ...
  5. The Buddy system. ...
  6. Send them a swag package. ...
  7. Set up icebreaker games. ...
  8. Conclusion.
20 May 2021

How can I communicate well while working remotely? ›

4 Ways to Improve Communication While Working Remotely
  1. Hold Virtual Meetings. While working remotely provides a sense of flexibility, stay engaged with co-workers by holding video meetings. ...
  2. Use Communication Applications. ...
  3. Utilize Project Management Tools. ...
  4. Establish Rapport Among Employees.
28 Feb 2022

What is the most important thing you can do when onboarding a new team member remotely? ›

Encourage collaborative learning.
  • Start early. ...
  • Get employees online ASAP. ...
  • Provide a digital employee handbook and company culture. ...
  • Create a sense of belonging. ...
  • Provide an individualized remote onboarding plan with video check-ins and goals. ...
  • Initiate professional development and personal growth from the start.

How do you welcome and acclimate new employees to your team? ›

Success Tips
  1. Provide a welcome package. ...
  2. Share the value your new employee brings to the practice. ...
  3. Build relationships and encourage communication. ...
  4. Learn their unique workplace language: People express and receive appreciation in different ways. ...
  5. Make their individual development plan (IDP) a partnership.

Videos

1. PED Leadership Series: 6 Tips To Effectively Manage (Newly) Remote Employees
(Strategic Initiatives)
2. Managing a Newly Remote Workforce
(PrideStaff)
3. Managing Your Remote Workforce Remix
(CEO Corner by LevelUp360)
4. Where's my office? - Pro tips for newly remote workers and their managers
(Richland Source)
5. How Do Leaders Effectively Manage Newly Remote Teams? - Cybersecurity Leadership Series Episode #9
(Cyber Houston)
6. How to Effectively Lead a Remote Team
(LearnLoft)

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