If you’re managing staff members who telecommute or work in a different location than you do, you’ll need to put extra effort into making the relationship work smoothly. Here are five tips that will help.
1. Establish a clear system for communications and stick to it. If you leave it informal, regular communication is less likely to happen than with someone who’s just down the hall. For instance, you might decide that (1) you’ll have one regularly scheduled phone meeting per week; (2) you’ll proactively and regularly create opportunities for less formal interaction, since your separate locations mean those won’t pop up on their own; (3) you won’t rely on email for big-picture or complicated issues and instead will get on the phone to talk them through; and (4) the staffer will come to your headquarters for a few days at least twice a year.
2. Get aligned up-front about your expectations about the remote staffer’s accessibility. For instance, you might ask remote employees to make sure it’s easy for coworkers to reach them and to be especially responsive to calls and emails during business hours since people can't just walk down the hall to their office.
3. Create ways for remote staff to stay in the loop. Since it can be harder for remote employees to know what’s going on in the office, pay special attention to ensuring that they’re included in communications. Make sure they hear about any significant development, as well as informal news within your team, and ensure that there’s not an information divide between those physically near you and those further away.
4. Create opportunities to interact in-person. This plays a big role in building trust and getting to know each other. And because this increased familiarity will lead to increased comfort, you’ll almost definitely find that in-person interactions lead to useful conversations that don’t happen when you’re just communicating by phone and email.
5. Find ways to see remote staff in action. In order to know what’s really going on in your remote staffer’s realm and how she operates, find ways to actually see her work in action. For instance, you might join some of her phone calls, go on site visits, or simply spend a day with her. Not only will this give you a better grasp on how her work is playing out, but she’ll probably appreciate knowing that you’ve seen her world firsthand and understand its dynamics and challenges.