By Jaimy Ford 

When an employee transitions from working on-site to working virtually, it can feel a bit overwhelming for team leaders. After all, you essentially lose your ability to monitor the employee and ensure that he or she is working.

How do you really know if that employee is starting work at 8:30 a.m. with the rest of team? And how can you be sure he or she isn’t actually watching T.V. or playing a round a golf?

The truth is, you can’t. And that it is why it is so imperative for you, as the virtual leader, to focus on employees’ results and not worry yourself with how they reach those results. In addition, follow this advice to ensure that your employee’s new virtual arrangement is successful:

  • Establish expectations. Right after you make the decision to allow the employee to work from home, schedule a meeting to talk about your expectations for the arrangement. Document your discussions, and both you and the employee sign off on the agreement. I suggest that you establish a trial period first so that the two of you can tests the waters and make sure the arrangement will actually work.
  • Set goals. Revisit any performance goals and reiterate that you still hold the employee accountable for reaching the goals. Talk about actions the employee needs to take to ensure success, and establish benchmarks and checkpoints so that you can measure the employee’s progress.
  • Establish ground rules. While you will likely be more lenient with the rules for virtual employees, especially in regards to dress codes and even work hours, you do need to set some guidelines. For example, set “office” hours when the employee must be available for impromptu calls and establish turnaround times for responding to teammates’ emails and voice messages.
  • Create emergency protocols. Outline what employees should do if weather or other events disrupt their Internet service, whom to contact for technical assistant, how they should call in sick, and so on.
  • Provide employees with all the resources they need. I’ve seen first-hand companies choose to keep all the newest equipment on location and ship off the older stuff to remote employees. Perhaps because leaders fear the’ll never see the newer stuff again. It’s a mistake. If you give them an ancient computer, slow printer, or other dated equipment that no one wants in the office, you are basically ensuring their productivity will suffer. At the least, they should have the same quality of technology as people in the office.
  • Communicate often. Finally, especially early on, make a concerted effort to check in with remote employees. Don’t call or email to try to catch them doing something wrong, but rather to find out how the arrangement is working for them and to ensure that they are still progressing toward their goals.
  • Give them the option to come back to the office. Working from home isn’t for everyone. Employees who thought it’s what they wanted may soon realize how wrong they were. While it does take time, effort and frustration to transition employees to home office, if the situation isn’t working for employees, you want them to feel like they can tell you that. If you established a trial run, this will be easier for the employee to do, but even if not, let employees know upfront to come to you if they feel working from home is not working for them.

With that process, you drastically increase the chances that the arrangement will be a success, and you can feel confident in your decision to allow employees to work from home.

And for even more resources and tools to help you succeed in remote leadership, check out The Remote Leadership Certificate Series here.


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