When COVID-19 hit, remote working became a necessity for us all. Now, as we come out of the pandemic, remote working arrangements are continuing in small businesses for at least part of the working week. This, of course, presents some unique challenges to businesses and managers. These can include lack of supervision, isolation, breakdown in communication and home distractions. 
Here are some of our top tips for managing remote workers effectively to get the best from your employees. 
1. Connect and communicate regularly 
It’s important to maintain structure and foster a sense of community if you are working virtually. Consider daily team check-ins, and make sure you stick to a pattern of regular team meetings and one-to-ones. Be clear how and when you are available – by phone, text or email; mornings, afternoons, evenings. 
You could also encourage sharing of information and ideas appropriately – this is much harder when you can’t run into each other in an office setting when making drinks or walking past each other’s desks. Think about how you could also make time for social conversations to help strengthen relationships. It can help reduce feelings of isolation, which in turn can make team communication easier. 
2. Agree ways of working 
Be clear with your team about how you’re going to work – how to provide updates on projects, how frequently you are going to be checking in, and what software you are going to be using. This includes ensuring everyone is familiar with, for example, Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and being aware of team members who might struggle with technology more than others. Ensure there are easy ways to connect for support and your calendar is easily accessible so team members know when they can get in touch. 
3. Set realistic expectations early on 
Make sure your expectations for projects are set early and easily accessible remotely. Give clarity to your team over expectations about responding to emails and texts outside of work hours. Also be clear about the realities of home working, and how it can affect feelings of isolation, stress and burnout, given the blurred boundaries between work and home life. Model behaviour when it comes to work/life balance, and share tips for a healthy lifestyle, including stepping away from the desk, exercise and fresh air. 
4. Be flexible 
Working remotely has benefits for employees, and one of the biggest ones is flexibility. Make sure you’re honouring this by being open to how work gets done. A big picture structure and plan is key, but as long as work is being completed to a high standard, try not to be bound by how and when employees chose to work. 
It’s also important to adapt to employee’s needs when working remotely – think about length of meetings and the expectations around being online for significant periods of time. 
5. Tackle issues early on 
If you have issues with the output from an employee, don’t let it go unaddressed. You might be concerned about an employee's quality of work, think they are being easily distracted or that they're not working to their full capacity. The situation is unlikely to improve if you don’t discuss it with them. Before you schedule a discussion, challenge yourself on your expectations. Are they reasonable? What are your specific concerns? It may be that it can be easily resolved through having a conversation with them. 
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