In the old days, when leaders got involved with how their people worked, they were deemed micro-managers — the worst name in the book. But today, being an involved leader is essential to harnessing talent, particularly when managing a remote workforce. Lack of visibility can cause anxiety and uncertainty — for both managers and their direct reports — leading to over-work, wasted time, and missed opportunities. Today’s leaders are being challenged to take the reins to direct their employees while putting up the guard rails that will enable the company to thrive.

Though these guidelines are not entirely unique to managing a remote workforce, they do provide a useful framework for today’s leaders who have been thrust unexpectedly into the world of remote management.

Make priorities and expectations explicitly clear. 

When you can’t see what your employees are working on and how they’re going about getting the job done, you need to be able to trust your team. By aligning on a clear set of priorities and expectations, you allow your employees the opportunity to prove that they can deliver. Moreover, you give your employees the gift of knowing exactly what their role and responsibilities are, which allows them to know when they can rest satisfied in a job well-done. 

Go full steam ahead on proactive projects

In today’s interruption-rich working environments, the average employee is productive for just three hours out of a standard eight hour day. Meanwhile, according to a Stanford University study, employees who work from home are 13% more productive than their office-worker counterparts. Extrapolating from this data, it’s safe to assume that your remote employees have a whole lot more time on their hands — and they need direction on how to use it.

Now is the time to get ahead on those proactive, deep-thinking projects that have been sitting on the back burner. Have each of your employees generate a list of projects they’d like to work on and review them together (individually, or as a team) to prioritize and strategize the assignments. 

Make sure to schedule weekly check-ins to review what work has been completed, uncover and problem-solve roadblocks, and map out next steps. This framework ensures that the work continues moving steadily forward in the right direction.

Structure a group work schedule to synchronize workflow.

There’s likely no need to reinvent the wheel here. Simply following your traditional office hours is the easiest way to provide structure to the day while ensuring that your team is able to synchronize their workflow, schedule meetings, and collaborate on major projects. 

If it’s not possible for everyone in the company, or everyone on your team, to follow the same set of hours, it’s imperative that you structure regular blocks of time for overlapping and coordinating work and/or set specific company wide / whole-team meetings to ensure that everyone stays up-to-date on evolving projects and priorities.

Ensure that employees maintain a healthy work-life balance

The quality of our time off has a direct impact on the quality of our work. But when circumstances necessitate that we live and work in the same place, it can be hard to find the time and space to relax. As a leader, you must be cognizant of and actively encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance when working from home. 

When we work from home, it can be all too easy to extend our work hours and allow work to bleed into our evenings and weekends. To combat this, encourage your employees to reinvest the time they previously spent commuting (as much as 30 minutes to 2 hours per day) into personal wellness activities (e.g. exercise, hobbies, time with family). To reinforce the message, make a point of asking what others are doing for fun in your weekly meetings.

With less face-time, leaders must take a more active role in structuring the way their teams work. By establishing guidelines for and with their teams, managers can effectively prevent burn-out, miscommunication, bottle-necks and mistakes before they occur. Driving business growth while safeguarding the longevity of your team is about the greatest win-win your employees or your company could ask for.