I’m not sure how to manage my off-site employees.

When you collaborate with onsite employees, it’s easy to see what they’re up to. But with remote team members, you really don’t know—and you can’t install hidden cameras in their homes to see if they’re actually working. You want to trust them, but you’re not sure how that can happen. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep remote workers engaged. Look over this list and see if there are some you can implement. 

  • Put yourself in their position and ask, “What are they missing out on?” It could be camaraderie in the office, access to resources, or quick hallway conversations. Keep those needs in mind as you work with your team to build those connections. 
  • Give them assignments that require collaboration instead of just independent work, so they have more opportunities to connect with onsite colleagues. 

  • Make sure remote workers experience all the communication that onsite employees experience. It’s easy to overlook them when you’re doing a quick update of decisions that have just been announced verbally in meetings. 

  • Actively seek out their perspectives and ideas, especially during virtual meetings. Prepare them ahead of time, so they’re ready to share their thoughts. 

  • Encourage them to take regular breaks to refresh for a few minutes. When there’s no one in the house, it’s common for them to simply keep working instead of reaching out. 

  • Give remote workers greater access to you—more time with you, less time between conversations, and more ways to contact you. 
  • Have early conversations with new hires to clarify expectations about your working relationship. Find out their preferred work procedures so you can work with them effectively. 

  • When you have 1-on-1s with them, keep them shorter than with onsite workers, but meet more frequently.  The dynamics of virtual communication make longer conversations challenging, so accommodate that reality. 

  • Engage in casual conversation at the beginning of every call instead of jumping immediately into work issues. See them as whole people, not just employees. 

  • Give remote workers important assignments that require their best contribution. To keep engagement and interest high, their work needs to be as interesting and challenging as what onsite colleagues receive, so they sense the value of what they do. 

  • Advocate for them and make them visible to their fellow workers and executives. “Out of sight, out of mind” can be real for people who aren’t in the same space, so be intentional about their contributions. Celebrate their achievements and ideas as much as those of onsite team members, so they feel like one team. 
  • Focus on outcomes, not just how much they’re working.  If you come to a clear expectation of what results they’re responsible for, it frees them up to accomplish those results in any way they can. Instead of counting the minutes they’re at their desk, it builds loyalty and trust when they don’t feel micromanaged.