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How To Succeed With Remote Employees

By Sanya Weathers

On Wednesday, we’ll take a look at the things we remote types want our bosses to know about us. On Friday we’ll share a few specific tips and tricks. Today, let’s talk about things you can do to maximize your chances for success with a remote employee. I crowdsourced this week’s posts using the entire Metaverse Mod Squad team.

Hire the Right People. Know the difference between an introvert and an extrovert. It has nothing to do with social skills or charm and everything to do with how a person gets and uses emotional energy. An extrovert recharges by being around other people. An introvert recharges by being alone. An extrovert in a remote job would need a very active social life to make up for the lack of face to face contact. An introvert will never run out of mental gas working alone in their basement office.

And beyond that, consider the usual suspects people say they want to hire, but in practice don’t need to sweat. The following are crucial in a remote employee – self-starter, self-motivator, proactive, strong communication skills, strong personality, and technically savvy enough to solve problems without onsite IT. In an office, you can compensate for shortcomings in these areas. Remote people, not so much.

It’s challenging, but worthwhile. You could also just hire a company that knows how to pick those people…  😉

Lots of Communication. In addition to being on instant messenger (you cannot work remotely without this tool) and using a centralized message board/project management tool, be sure to schedule regular check in meetings. The frequency depends on the job. Some jobs are essentially on autopilot. Weekly, or even monthly meetings are fine for those. For any task where the team needs to be coordinated, a five minute daily touch-base meeting is necessary.

If that’s not possible due to time zone issues, consider daily reports, with names, tasks, and actions. It sounds like a crazy amount of paperwork, but it’s just not. For one of my jobs here at MMS, I keep a Notepad document open all day, pasting links and scribbling thoughts as I have them. At the end of the day, I copy and paste the whole thing into the project management software. It takes literally seconds.

Speaking of project management software, this is a communication tool you can’t skip. It really doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you’ve got one place where you and your remote employees will dump every document, every email, every link, and every discussion. If it’s not centralized, or you use one package for inhouse employees and another for the remote people, the process will break down and fail.

Documentation is Key. Remote people can’t read your mind. Your onsite people can – by reading your body language, by picking up hints in the breakroom, and so on. To help the remote people succeed, you need clear documentation of your needs, your intentions, and your process.

Build Rapport. An advantage of remote employees is definitely that we don’t waste a lot of time over chit chat, break room donuts, smoke breaks and their equivalents, and other social activities. The disadvantage is that we don’t have those avenues of rapport building, or much of a sense of who our coworkers are as people. So set up sections of your internal forums just for fun stuff. Start discussion on email loops. Use webcams for meetings.

Know Yourself. If there’s anything about using remote employees that makes you uncomfortable, own it, and build it into your process. Trying to pretend you’re not worried will actually create problems, and interfere with your ability to manage. Don’t hesitate to ask your remote worker to “clock in” via instant messenger, for example. Schedule results-oriented tasks for the beginning of your partnership with the remote person while you’re building trust. If something bothers you, speak up right away. Better an awkward conversation now than trouble later.

If you’ve got any questions, just ask!

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