How to Set Clear Expectations for Remote Employees

Remote work has become increasingly popular and has entirely changed the work landscape.

However, managing remote employees has become a significant concern for managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.

As a seasoned entrepreneur and leadership coach, I’ve worked with several businesses to manage and keep remote employees accountable over the years.

In this blog post, I’ll share tips and insights that will help you set clear expectations for remote employees, improve their accountability, and drive success.

Let’s dive right in!

Defining Expectations for Remote Employees

As a leader managing a remote team, setting well-defined expectations can lead to a more productive and efficient workforce. Here are a few ways to define and communicate expectations to remote employees.

Be Specific with Tasks and Goals

When assigning tasks, be specific about what you want your remote employee to achieve. Explain the task’s purpose, what they need to do, and how long they should spend on it. Set measurable targets, such as how many products they should sell or the number of reports to be completed.

For example, instead of saying, “I need you to create a marketing campaign,” try saying, “I need you to create a marketing campaign targeting XYZ demographics. It should include social media ads and blog posts, and the goal is to increase website traffic by 25% in the next quarter.”

Communicate Priorities and Deadlines

Setting priorities and deadlines helps employees prioritize their work, manage their time better, and reduce procrastination. Communicate clear priorities, and ensure everyone is aware of them. Clarity on deadlines helps employees avoid confusion and procrastination.

For example, instead of saying, “Work on the project as soon as possible, no rush,” be clear and concise by saying, “Please work on this project by Friday, and let me know if there’s any delay.”

Set Realistic Standards

It’s essential to set realistic standards for remote workers, keeping in mind the circumstances under which they operate. Avoid overloading your employees with unrealistic expectations, as it might lead to burnout or stress. Be realistic with the workload, but still demand high-quality work.

For example, instead of saying, “I expect 50 pages of high-quality content every day,” say, “I expect well-written content according to the specified format and deadlines.”

Use SMART Criteria

When setting expectations, use SMART criteria, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. This criterion helps ensure the expectations are clear, focused, and achievable.

For example, instead of saying, “Please prepare a sales report,” use SMART by saying, “Please prepare a weekly sales report, highlighting the best-performing areas, the areas that need improvement, and include specific figures that yielded the highest closing rates.''

By setting clear expectations, you are giving remote employees a sense of purpose and a roadmap to follow, leading to increased productivity and success.

Set Communication Guidelines

In today’s virtual office environment, it’s important to establish clear communication guidelines with your remote employees. Not only does it make it easier to manage projects, but it also helps to keep everyone on the same page, enhancing productivity and efficiency. Here are a few tips on how to establish communication guidelines effectively:

Establish Communication Channels

Having multiple channels to communicate helps remote employees feel more connected and helps manage expectations. It’s important to create an open communication culture that enables team members to freely share information and updates, seek feedback and ask questions. Communication channels such as email, team chat or instant messaging apps, video conferencing, and phone calls should be accessible to your remote team.

Decide the Frequency of Check-ins

Regular communication is vital when working with remote employees. It’s important to decide how often, and on what occasions, managers should or could check-in with their remote team members. A good practice is to conduct one-on-one meetings at least once or twice a week to review progress, establish priorities, and answer questions.

Provide Feedback and Guidance

Remote teams need feedback and guidance to be successful. Not only does constructive feedback enhance productivity but also helps identify potential areas of improvement. Managers should provide timely and relevant feedback to their remote team members to motivate and guide them in the right direction.

Address Miscommunication Promptly

Distance often leads to miscommunication as there are no face-to-face interactions. When working virtually, it’s challenging to pick up on non-verbal cues, which often leads to misunderstandings between remote team members. While it’s important to establish communication channels, addressing miscommunications should be done promptly, to avoid conflicts and to ensure that everyone remains aligned to project goals.

By following these guidelines, managers can establish clear communication channels, enhance productivity and efficiency, and foster a culture of open communication, even in virtual office environments.

Define Your Workflow

I assume that you have already identified what tasks need to be accomplished and have set priorities and realistic standards. Now it’s time to clarify the process and establish procedure guidelines to complete these tasks efficiently.

Clarify the Process and Procedure Guidelines

Clearly outlining the process and procedure guidelines is the foundation of a well-organized team. With remote teams, it can be challenging to guess what’s happening. Providing contoured procedure guidelines takes it all from guessing to understanding, communication tools such as text, video or phone communication can fix this. Use a virtual whiteboard for work assignments, communication deadlines, or critical milestones of the task - this will help you to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Develop a Project Management Strategy

Since we are working remotely, developing a simple project management strategy is essential in tracking progress, managing timelines and deadlines, and ensuring there is no overlap of workflows. We recommend a cloud-based project management tool to manage workflows and boost productivity. For example, Asana, Trello, or Basecamp. These tools enable you to organize workflows and collaborate with employees, assign tasks and deadlines.

Use Workflow Software Tools

Third, there’s always an app for everything, trying to improve on previous tools. Workflow Software tools offer a range of solutions for business owners by automating routine tasks, streamlining repetitive processes or generating reports with aggregate data. Using this kind of software will help you to handle massive data and streamline your team’s efforts. One of these software tools is Zapier, it allows businesses to link two or more web applications, automate processes (known as zap) and make their work easier.

By following these three subsections, clarifying the procedure guidelines, establishing a project management strategy and using workflow software, you can improve collaboration, streamline tasks, and increase efficiency.

Establish Clear Policies and Rules

When it comes to managing remote employees, clear policies and rules are necessary to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Here are some key areas to consider:

Guidelines for the Use of Company Resources

As a leader, you need to provide remote employees access to the necessary tools, resources, and technologies they need to do their job. However, it is equally important to establish guidelines to ensure that these resources are used appropriately. Clearly outline the limits of usage for company computers, software programs, and other tools.

For example, you may want to provide remote employees with a VPN connection to safely access the company’s intranet. You should establish policies around keeping the VPN credentials secure and not sharing them with non-employees. Develop clear policies on what kinds of data the employees can share or transfer through company networks or third-party platforms, to safeguard company information.

Data Security and Privacy Rules

Data security is vital, especially when dealing with remote employees who work outside of the physical office, as they will not always have the same level of protection. Provide clear guidance on how to protect confidential information from being compromised. For example, you can instruct employees to use complex passwords or use two-factor authentication to access various accounts.

It is worth considering data security regulations compliant with the relevant laws, such as GDPR or HIPAA, and adding additional regulations such as automatic log-offs or restricting public Wi-Fi usage.

Regulations on Working Hours and Breaks

Establish clear guidelines for working hours, breaks, and company policies about clocking in and out. Make sure it is clear when remote employees should start, take breaks, and finish working. Consider time zones and clarify that overtime may need to be approved in advance. Make sure to have a system that tracks attendance and performance.

Address Work from Home Policies

It is crucial to set guidelines for staff that define your company’s policy for remote work in terms of what is expected of employees when working remotely. Address any code of conduct or anti-discrimination policies that apply specifically to remote or hybrid teams. You should explicitly detail schedule expectations, reporting, and communication obligations while ensuring that the new policies and procedures are consistent, documented, and understandable.

By carefully developing policies and communicating them efficiently to remote teams, you’re building trust, fostering effective communication, and creating a culture of accountability that sets the stage for a thriving remote workforce.

Provide Essential Training and Resources

As a manager or leader of remote teams, your responsibility includes providing your team with the resources they need to achieve their goals. One of the significant advantages of remote working is the ability to quickly and easily access relevant training to broaden the skill set of your team members. Here are some ways to provide your remote team members with the necessary training and resources.

Provide access to appropriate resources

Provide your remote team members with secure access to online training platforms, digital libraries, and webinars to help them train and grow skills. Offer subscriptions to online tools and resources to make working from home an efficient and collaborative experience. Make sure that they can access these resources using their preferred devices and times.

Teach the latest tools and technologies

New technologies and tools arise each day, and your team needs to be up to date with them. Remote employees rely on tools and software to conduct their work, and providing them with adequate training on these tools is crucial. Arrange periodic training sessions to help them learn all the functionalities of these tools.

Provide guidance for new procedures and processes

Remote employees may struggle to adapt to new procedures and processes. Make sure you clarify them and provide the necessary guidance. You can also offer access to materials explaining how to follow certain procedures, such as workflow guides, workflow graphs, or FAQs.

By providing access to necessary resources, teaching the latest tools and technologies, and offering guidance for new procedures and processes, you help your remote team members become more independent and efficient in their work. This not only promotes a sense of individual growth, but it also contributes to the overall success of their teams and organizations.

Fostering Team Spirit and Culture

As remote work can put employees in isolation, it’s essential to create a sense of connection and belonging among them. To achieve this, I suggest several steps that can foster team spirit and culture.

Create a Remote Onboarding Program

Onboarding new employees remotely can be challenging as they do not have physical interaction with their colleagues, let alone the work environment. Providing a thorough guideline, including goals, tasks, and company culture, can help them to adapt quickly. By initiating a remote onboarding program, you can provide a comprehensive introduction to your new team members, and introduce them to the organization, the team, and individual responsibilities. The program can also reduce new hire anxiety and integrate them seamlessly, setting new hires up for success.

Develop a Frequent Interaction Plan

As an entrepreneur, leading a remote team, and developing a frequent interaction plan can lead to higher productivity and collaboration among team members. Set up regular team meetings, one-on-one catch-ups, and informal video chats so team members can interact with one another, share feedback, and stay informed. Online messaging apps, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, can prove substantially helpful for employee interaction, real-time updates, and ensuring deadlines are met.

Promote Opportunities for Informal Communication

Informal communication can help build camaraderie and foster team spirit, which has been documented to increase employee satisfaction. Ad-hoc video meetings, virtual coffee chats and online team-building activities can be highly impactful. Create open channels without any fixed agendas to spark discussions and help employees socialize.

Celebrate Achievements and Events

As a manager, celebrating the team’s successes can enhance morale, and motivation, and foster loyalty to the business. Recognize your virtual employee’s milestones by creating chat channels or virtual bulletin boards to celebrate staff birthdays, work anniversaries, and personal achievements. You can also create a rewards system to recognize high performance and innovation to motivate your team.

Creating a positive remote work environment takes work, but each step counts in developing a cohesive team spirit and strong organizational culture.

Develop and Maintain A Performance Management System

As a leader of a remote team, it is critical that you develop and implement a consistent performance management system. This system helps you evaluate your team members’ abilities and improve their performance. Here are some guidelines to follow:

Establish Clear Performance Evaluation Criteria

The first step is to establish a standard for evaluating performance. This is where you outline your expectations and the goals that need to be accomplished. Be specific with your criteria and align them with the company’s broader objectives.

Provide Feedback Regularly

It’s essential to provide regular feedback to your remote workers. Try to schedule check-ins with each individual team member to provide constructive and actionable feedback. This will help you address any problems promptly and offer solutions to improve work quality.

Use A Balanced Scorecard Approach

Use a balanced scorecard approach to assess your remote worker’s performance. Balance your team members’ performance with their progress toward achieving the team’s goals. It creates a comprehensive view of how each team member contributes to larger goals.

Provide Support and Guidance for Performance Improvement

If your team members aren’t meeting performance expectations, offer guidance and support to help them improve. Provide access to training and resources that help them learn new skills, tools, and techniques. Offer support to help motivate and engage struggling team members.

Remember that the performance management system is not static, but rather an ongoing process. Continuously refining and adapting to meet your team’s needs allows you to achieve your goals and performance objectives.

Identify and Address Challenges in Remote Work

Working remotely presents unique challenges that are not present in a traditional office setting. As a leader, it is important to identify potential hurdles and develop strategies to mitigate them. In this section, I will discuss some common challenges that remote teams face and provide tips for addressing them.

Identify Potential Communication Barriers

One of the most critical aspects of remote work is communication. However, there can be several barriers to effective communication, including language barriers, cultural differences, and time zone differences. To address these challenges, it is important to:

  • Encourage the use of simple, clear language in all communications
  • Develop guidelines for cross-cultural communication
  • Use tools like video conferencing to facilitate face-to-face communication
  • Provide training on active listening and effective communication techniques

Plan for Technology Failure

Technology is essential for remote teams to work together effectively. However, there are times when technology can fail, leading to delays, missed deadlines, and lost productivity. To address this challenge, you should:

  • Develop contingency plans for technology failure
  • Use redundant systems for essential tools
  • Provide training on troubleshooting basic tech issues
  • Establish communication plans in case of a technology outage

Working with team members in different time zones can pose a challenge for remote teams. It is important to develop strategies to minimize the impact of time zone differences. Here are some tips:

  • Schedule meetings during a time that works for all team members or pick a meeting time that alternates to accommodate different time zones
  • Decide on guidelines for asynchronous communication
  • Ensure that team members are aware of their work schedule and that they prioritize rest and self-care

Promote Work-Life Balance

Remote work has several advantages, including flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere. But it can also blur the lines between work and personal life. To address this challenge, it is important to:

  • Encourage team members to take regular breaks
  • Ensure that workloads are manageable and that team members are not overworked
  • Promote work-life balance by setting clear expectations for working hours and response times
  • Provide resources and support for self-care and stress management

By addressing these challenges, leaders can create a smoother and more productive remote work experience for their teams.

Final Thoughts

Setting clear expectations for remote employees is vital for successful and productive remote work.

By adhering to the guidelines discussed in this post, leaders and entrepreneurs can create a culture of accountability, transparency, and trust.

I encourage you to put these strategies to work in your own organization and see the positive results that come from setting clear expectations.

So, which strategy from today’s post are you going to try first?

Please let me know.

I’m always happy to discuss these topics further and support you in your leadership journey.

If you found this post valuable, consider sharing it on social media with your network.

Together, we can create a remote work revolution that empowers leaders and teams to reach their full potential.

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About the Author
Hi there, I'm James, founder of Melbado. I have over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. Recently, I turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me via our contact page.


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