This is a guest post by Nathan Jansch.

If you manage employees remotely or have colleagues who work in different locations, staying in touch can get pushed aside by more pressing, revenue-generating tasks. But it’s vital to stay connected and to manage, if we’re talking about employees.¬†Below are some tips on how to be an effective communicator.

  1. Don’t be afraid to give honest feedback. When you communicate primarily via email and phone, it sometimes seems easier to let some things slide. But just because you don’t see these employees in person doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let them know what’s important to you and what’s expected. Be straightforward and honest if the work they do is not up to your standards. Give them the opportunity to make it right.
  2. Mind your manners. Working remotely tends to depersonalize interactions. If your only interaction is via email, it can be easy to forget you’re dealing with a living, thinking, feeling human being. As your mother used to say, remember your manners. Say “please” and “thank you.” If your employee or colleague does a great job, say so. Be effusive in your praise if it’s warranted. A little respect goes a long way.
  3. Be flexible. Again, when your employee or colleague is only an avatar on a screen, it’s easy to start treating him or her as a virtual servant on whom you can impose ridiculous demands. Just because you’re working through the weekend or you have insomnia and are working at 2 a.m. doesn’t mean you can expect your employee to be doing the same. Having virtual employees does not equate to 24/7 access to them. Think long and hard before you elevate projects to urgent status, because if you do this on a regular basis, you become the boy who cried wolf and “urgent” will lose its meaning.
  4. Quantify and qualify your expectations. This means you don’t assume anything, especially that your virtual employee or colleague understands how important a project is unless you make it clear in writing. Write out a checklist and email or message progress reports back and forth with a clear timeline and ultimate goals.
  5. Use the phone and/or video chat. While email and messaging are convenient and don’t require the two parties to be available and focused at the same time, it can depersonalize your interactions. Make use of Skype or Facetime to brainstorm, go over agendas, get feedback on the spot without waiting for an email that may or may not answer your questions.
  6. Keep in touch. There’s nothing worse than getting a frantic email, text or phone call the night before an important deadline to tell you the deadline won’t be met. A check-in once a week either via phone, text or email can help you see where your employees are struggling, if they’ve hit a snag or roadblock, if they don’t understand the project. Go back to your expectation checklist and see where your employees are each week on projects so you won’t be blindsided come deadline.

Nathan Jansch is owner and president of The Boardroom Executive Suites in Denver, Colo., which provides office space, virtual office services, conference room rentals, telephone answering, and other services and amenities to small and medium sized businesses. To compare executive suites to traditional office space or subleases, visit the Boardroom Executive Suites website. Read the blog for helpful business news and advice, financial and real estate news, and working green tips.

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