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Resource Center / Teams

Managing Remote Employees: 3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Leading a team of remote employees requires a different set of management skills. Learn which practices to adopt — and which to avoid — to manage a remote team.

Amanda Beach photo
Amanda Beach
Jan 27, 20175 minutes

The importance of remote team management skills became clear as companies moved to remote operations in light of COVID-19. While many people struggled to adjust to the remote work lifestyle, having the option to work remotely was a welcome shift for others.

According to a recent study on the remote work experience post-COVID-19, 80% percent of employees surveyed said they would work from home if they could. That’s a pretty substantial vote for virtual work, especially considering the rough adjustment period many experienced when the pandemic began.

Now, as employers begin to consider transitioning to a remote workforce long-term, those important remote management skills are becoming a near-necessity. Read on to learn about some of the remote management practices you should avoid, and which you should adopt instead (if you haven’t already).

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Avoid Seeming Unapproachable

Even the most approachable managers aren’t effective if their teams don’t know how to approach them. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to explain how your employees can best approach you. Without setting those clear expectations, you run the risk of your employees communicating less often.

To help ensure your team understands the best time and method for soliciting your feedback, try using some of these tips:

  • Personalize meetings for your team: In-person meetings have become a thing of the past in the shift to remote work. Despite the heavy reliance on webcams to facilitate connection, “Zoom fatigue” is real and might be impacting your employees — and you. If virtual meetings are no longer working for your team, consider flexible alternatives like walking calls, or working meetings via free tools like Mural or Miro.
  • Enable visibility into your calendar: Without the in-office visual cues they’re used to, it can be difficult for your employees to know when you’re available. Making your calendar visible can help — but this also means you’ll need to ensure it’s kept up-to-date. By allowing visibility into your schedule, you’ll empower your employees to reach out to you when they need to.
  • Customize your tech: Communication tools like Slack make it easier to customize how you and your employees interact. Justworks, for example, created custom Slack avatars that employees can assign based on their activity or needs on any given day. Using these makes it easier for managers to let their teams know when they’re out for lunch or done for the day.
  • Find opportunities for real face time: Once companies begin returning to the workplace post-COVID-19, in-person meetings will be an option again. If you have employees on your team that will continue to work remotely long-term, consider setting up in-person meetings when possible. Arranging for remote employees to visit the office regularly can provide opportunities for you to interact with them in different ways, and could strengthen their connection with the larger team.

Related article: Your Return to Work Checklist: Preparing the Workplace

When in doubt, be proactive about connection. Feeling distant from their team can contribute to an employee’s feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other health issues. Distance doesn’t have to mean distant — just because you’re not physically close to your team doesn’t mean you can’t develop strong connections with them. Instead of allowing the distance to define how you work with your employees, use it as a challenge to identify and action ways to bring your team closer together.

Avoid Skipping the Follow-up

One of the most common communications is one that’s also easily forgotten: the follow-up. As a manager, this type of communication is crucial to ensuring your employees understand what’s expected of them. Without it, they’re left to rely on their memory and act on their best guess. And when employees are working remotely, it’s even harder for them to verify expectations when they can’t just stop by your office.

Instead of allowing the distance to define how you work with your employees, use it as a challenge to identify and action ways to bring your team closer together.

While your team continues to work remotely, make a habit of sending follow-ups in writing. This gives both you and your employees something tangible to refer back to when in doubt. Your consistent follow-ups might also inspire your team to follow in your footsteps to develop the same habit.

Follow-ups can also be helpful for discussions that once happened through more casual run-ins prior to COVID-19. For example, an employee might have mentioned their interest in a specific professional development opportunity when running into you at the water cooler. Reminding you of their interest was easy when they could drop by your office later the same day. Now, when those casual opportunities to connect aren’t quite as common, it’s even more important for you to follow-up regularly on what your employees bring up with you.

Avoid Distrusting Your Employees

While distributed teams can make people management challenging, it’s important to approach the task with communication and trust. Without those key elements, managers and employees alike may experience more stress and anxiety that can lead to bigger issues.

Communicating with your employees regularly allows you to set expectations, while also giving them regular opportunities to raise any concerns they may have. That said, it’s important to communicate consciously to avoid veering into micromanagement territory. Putting more trust in your team can help you do this.

When it comes to trusting your team, remember that each member was hired for a reason. Keep in mind the experience and skills they bring to the table, and assess their performance based on their overall contributions. If your employees are producing quality work and making progress where expected, then your trust is warranted. Building trust in your employees, and letting them know that trust is there, can go a long way toward developing confidence and ownership in your team.

How Justworks Can Help

Even if you have experience, managing remote teams can still present its fair share of challenges. Engaging and supporting your employees takes time and effort — even more so when you’re doing it from a distance.

If you want to spend more time taking care of your team, Justworks can help. Our all-in-one platform streamlines payroll, benefits and HR admin, and other backend functions, freeing up that time for you to spend on team management. And taking that time to engage and support your employees will only serve to strengthen your team in the long run.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.