A Manager’s Guide to Collaborating With Remote Workers

As we enter the 2020s, a new style of working begins to take shape, with old-school and ineffective formats no longer serving anyone, and a sleeker format dominating the workspace. As a manager, a remote worker can be an absolute godsend as they continue to work on tasks while you focus on the moving parts of the business. You might be considering engaging remote works for a full-time gig or specific project work. However this will work, you should take the time to consider how your remote works do in fact work, and what you can do to get the best out of these individuals.

Establish a communication method

How will you be communicating with your remote team? Will it be video conferencing, Slack, email, Skype, OneDrive, or perhaps a combination of a couple of these formats. You will find that you and your remote team will get into a rhythm soon enough, and whatever platform you choose will become the new boardroom or staff lunchroom. If you have an established format, see if they will consider using that program, or if they are willing to meet you halfway. It is a blessing and a curse that there are so many communication platforms these days, meaning that the chance you are both already using the same program will probably be slim to none.

Set clear objectives

Most of the relationship breakdowns that you see between businesses and freelancers are due to a miscommunication of scope and objectives. Make sure you have a transparent discussion about what they will bring to the table, and what the lifecycle of their work will look like. Knowing who does what and by when will save any prickly conversations that may arise, and it can only make you a more formidable team.

Define boundaries

Boundaries are another discussion point that needs to be touched, and if it doesn’t happen at the start it will have to happen later in when bad habits inevitably start to form. Establish whether weekend communication or texting is allowed, and what the feedback chain looks like when a project is submitted. You should also talk about your values, as there may be future work that arises that your freelancer may not want to work on (mining, religious establishments, etc).

Payment method and terms

Do you intend to pay your remote worker weekly, monthly, at the completion of the project, or at stages of the project completion? Have a frank discussion with your remote team about what they prefer and why, and figure out if that is achievable on your end. We tend to forget the luxury we have of being part of a fixed team and structure, but remote workers are victim to irregular or late payments, so don’t be another one to do this. If you don’t do right by them here or provide a forum in which they can express their opinion, you might have a disengaged remote worker on your hands.

Review, revise, repeat

The most important part about this type of collaboration is the ability to remain agile within this new relationship. Having a plan is a great start, but be prepared to change the way you work if you both find that it’s not as efficient as you both anticipated. Foster a relationship of communication so that they feel safe in alerting you to something that isn’t quite working or a way that it could be much better.

Once you start to operate your business in this format, you will wonder why you ever thought that productivity only occurred when you had a team of people sitting in the same room. There is a real beauty to this autonomous workflow and one that many haven’t perfected the collaboration of. Take things as it comes and never be afraid to have an open dialogue with your remote worker is something isn’t working.