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Leading from a Distance

With more employees working from home than ever before, managers face a new challenge: Keeping remote workers engaged. More than 40 percent of the workforce now works remotely at least some of the time. This trend doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon, either.

While this approach certainly offers a number of benefits – from convenience to decreased commutes – a team that's not all in one place presents challenges, too. For managers, this new reality means finding ways to engage remote workers, boost morale and keep productivity moving along.

Check out these tips to help you lead your team no matter where they are located.

Man signaling a thumbs up in front of video conference group.

Set Clear Remote Work Expectations

Employees need to know exactly what you expect from them, whether they're at home or in the office. Institute a remote work policy as soon as possible to codify these expectations and provide needed direction.

Telecommuting policies may cover aspects such as:

  • Working hours: Will employees keep regular working hours? If not, at which times of day should employees be available?
  • Communication channels: Which communication tools are available, and which tool should be used in different circumstances? For instance, video calls will be used for weekly meetings, and conference calls for daily check-ins.
  • Online meeting schedule: A calendar of meetings and the channel of communication used to conduct each.
  • Troubleshooting: Resources for employee concerns or issues relating to remote work.

Structured Regular Check-Ins

One of the most significant differences between remote and in-person work is the inability to simply stop by someone's desk to check in (and to chat, if necessary). Whether formal or informal, these regular communications go a long way toward establishing lines of communication and keeping employees engaged. Consider adding a regular check-in call to the schedule, at the same time each day.

Calls can be one-on-one or team-based. The key lies in establishing a predictable interaction in which employees can voice their thoughts and relay any concerns.

Build Personal Relationships

Even when employees aren't in the office, you can still build relationships. Provide opportunities to replicate certain interactions in real life. Consider setting up virtual "water-cooler chats" that allow employees to talk about non-work-related issues.

Consider adding some fun into the mix, too; online board games, trivia contests, or interactive classes can be morale boosters. Work with your employees to build a virtual culture that keeps them excited to show up.

Keeping employees engaged is always a challenge, and managers may find it an especially daunting task when done online. By focusing on clear expectations, regular communication and building relationships, managers can help employees navigate the changes associated with shifting to remote work.

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