A lot of our articles here on NomadTalk focus on how to find remote work and how to keep it but today, we’d like to talk about how to be the perfect remote boss. Many digital nomads aren’t employees but employers and if you can learn how to get the balance right, you can run a profitable business from anywhere.
So, we asked around a little and got some input into what remote employees wanted from the perfect remote boss and they said they want you to check in, they need a schedule, they want to see you, they need clear direction, they want an open door, they need you to over-communicate, they expect you to harness technology and to build a real remote work team.
Now, let’s take a look at that in more detail.
Remote Workers Want You To Check In With Them
This may come as something of a surprise but it’s very easy to feel left out if you work remotely. It’s like the important conversations never reach your ears.
Many people lack the confidence to raise issues with a boss or client that they rarely hear from, they don’t feel that they have the strength of relationship to make their comments valuable.
If you check in on a regular basis, even if it’s just to see how the person is (and trust us, not every conversation should be performance-related) then they’re going to feel like you care about them and in return, they are much more likely to care about your business and your needs.
From personal experience – I enjoy working by myself and I don’t mind being left alone but I’ve had clients who just disappeared for months at a time, sure they paid their invoices, but they literally never said “Good job, bad job or indifferent job”.
I am fairly self-confident but that didn’t make me feel great and it should come as no great surprise that those relationships are pretty much all gone now. It’s nice to be trusted, but it’s also nice to feel important.
Remote Workers Want A Schedule
That doesn’t mean setting a 9 to 5 working environment as a mandatory part of the job but it does mean that you ought to set some core hours that allow the worker to feel that they have a period of time each day where they can reach out to colleagues and to you in order to answers and support with their work.
You may also choose to combine a schedule with a requirement for visibility online so that it’s clear that everyone is taking part and it’s not just you keeping an eye on them.
Remote Workers Want To See Your Face
Now, I won’t go this far – I actually prefer to take calls without a video aspect, it saves me from having to dress up for online meetings plus, even I don’t want to see my face on a small screen, why would I want to inflict it on other people?
The younger generation, however, loves that face-to-face feel and it gives them confidence in their communication style when they can see your face and how you react to their ideas and input.
As long as you have the right levels of bandwidth where you’re working from, try to make sure that your meetings are conducted over video.
On top of that, it’s a really good idea to meet in person every now and again. It doesn’t need to be weekly or monthly but at least once a year – there ought to be some real face time with managers and indeed with the rest of the team.
Remote Workers Want You To Be Clear About What You Want
There’s nothing worse than receiving an e-mail that someone dashed off in 30 seconds before they go on a two-month vacation to discover that what they’re asking for is vague and almost impossible to deliver.
This is what remote work often feels like full-time.
You have to spend more time communicating your needs and you have to ensure that the recipient of your communication really understands what it is that you want.
More importantly, if the goalposts move for you – you have to let all the people working remotely that the objectives have shifted.
There’s a certain tendency for remote managers and clients to start thinking that the people who work for them are psychic. They’re not.
I had a client once who’d call and ask for the impossible when I walked him through that, he said; “you always sound reasonable when I talk to you but later I remember why I think you can get something done.”
Well, that helps, not.
I’m not psychic either. The burden of explaining what you want falls squarely on you and not on other people to read your mind.
Remote Workers Want An Open Door From You
Of course, this is a metaphorical door but just like in offices – the best managers are the ones that are (nearly) always available to the people they manage.
Your job as a team manager is as much working with people as it is working on objectives and tasks and that means valuing those people and being available to them.
We appreciate that this can completely suck if you’re in one time zone and they are in another, but it beats having to fly out to meet them, right?
Make sure you communicate your availability and then make sure you live up to it – if someone calls at 9.30 p.m. suck it up.
Remote Workers Want You To Over Communicate
You may have noticed that all of these points relate to communication and that’s probably because for many people, remote work is a bit lonely – at least at first if you’re used to going into an office and being surrounded by people.
Different people compensate for this in different ways, but it takes time to learn your coping strategies and communication never stops being important.
In fact, remote teams must communicate well with each other as well as with the boss and if you want the team to communicate well, you have to lead by example.
We’d also encourage you to encourage disagreement. We’ve noticed that many clients and employers dismiss concerns raised over e-mail and by phone and then act incredibly surprised when the issue comes back to bite them.
You need debate and disagreement to build a successful business in the long-term. Don’t be afraid of it.
Remote Workers Want You To Keep Improving The Technological Side Of Work
Automation is not something most remote workers fear. In fact, they want you to help them by constantly innovating on the technical side of work so that they can do interesting and important things.
Slack, Trello, Google Docs are a good start but let’s be clear about this – the near future of remote work is going to bring massive advances in remote working tools.
We’d expect to see things like AI playing a big part in managing diaries and workload before long. As a remote manager, you’re going to need to get ahead of this and be constantly trialing and then implementing new tech that makes your remote work environment a better place to be in.
Remote Workers Expect You To Build A Team
This is a big deal. In real life team leaders make introductions to other members of the team and then they facilitate the early working relationship in order to make things smooth for both people.
This is exactly what’s needed remotely too. People are only going to feel like they are part of something bigger and more important if that’s what you make them feel like.
Sorry, we know it’s a big ask but if you’re employing people – you’re the one with the vision, it’s your job to share that vision and make sure everyone is on board with it.
It’s not hard to be the perfect remote boss all you need to do is check-in, give a schedule, see your team, give clear direction, have an open door, over-communicate, harness technology and build a real remote work team.
These are different skills from working in classical teams, but they are all relatively easy to develop and if you want to know how you’re doing as a remote boss – ask your team and be prepared to actually listen to the answers.