How to Set Employee Expectations for Remote Work
Remote work has now become commonplace since the pandemic forced most offices to allow their team members to work from home. However, remote work comes with its own unique set of challenges and potential obstacles to overcome.
For example, when working remotely, communicating goals and expectations must be very clear and precise to avoid misunderstandings between team members and management. This article aims to explain how to set employee expectations for remote work and how to define expectations clearly to help ensure that you maintain your productivity.
Looking for more tips on remote work? Check out How to improve remote team performance
The benefits of remote and hybrid work
There are many benefits to having remote employees or implementing hybrid collaboration modes. These can include:
- Happier employees: Studies show that employees who work from home are often happier and more satisfied with their jobs.
- Increase productivity: Thanks in part to being happier and having more flexibility, remote employees are often more productive.
- Reduced costs: Remote employees help firms save money on office space. Increased productivity also reduces costs, and happier employees are less likely to leave, saving money on employee churn.
- Access to a larger talent pool: With remote working, you don’t have to limit yourself to those who live a commutable distance from an office. Now you can hire people from all around the world, helping you to choose from the best talents available.
However, to realize these benefits you need to be clear on what you expect from your remote employees.
Why setting employee expectations is crucial for hybrid and remote work
Because of the distance and lack of direct physical oversight, hybrid workplace managers often feel the need to micromanage their team members. This leads to a lack of motivation and lower productivity, as employees respond negatively to the implied lack of trust.
Setting clear performance and communication expectations can help avoid micromanagement and enable your team to work to the best of their ability. Here’s our list of key tips:
1. Clarify product outcomes and expectations
In remote or hybrid teams, it is even more essential than usual to set standards regarding your employees’ performance and output. Work out which results you expect them to achieve and in what timeframe. Team milestones and deliverables can be ambitious but should be realistic and attainable.
2. Don’t obsess over hours but do set limitations on work hours
When you’re focusing on output, hours should be less important. After all, people work differently. Some are more productive in short bursts and take frequent breaks. Others like to hammer away at a task for hours at a time. Remote working allows people to work at their best in ways that suit them.
However, there are two important considerations. You need to know when your team members are available and you also need to try to ensure that no one is overworking and risking burnout by sitting at their desk for ten or eleven hours straight every day.
Set some expectations around when you expect team members to be available, and set workday limits. Consider using a workload management tool to help you overview the load of the team.
3. Create targets for each team member
Once you’re clear on your team targets, you need to drill down into the individual level. What KPIs will you use to assess performance? How will team members know they are performing well? Letting everyone know their individual targets is good for the project and for setting employee expectations for remote work. It will also potentially be useful for each individual’s personal and professional development, making it a win-win scenario.
4. Co-create expectations with the team
When you’re working through your team and individual targets and working hours expectations, it’s important to include your team members in this process. One of the best ways to get your team members onside with the expectations and goals is to involve them in setting them. This way, they have a stake in the process and are more intrinsically motivated to hit targets that they themselves have helped to set.
Team members may also come up with new ideas about how to improve processes and set expectations, given that they are complicit in making them work. Besides, people tend to respond well to being consulted and treated like their expert opinion is important.
Consider implementing an Objective-Key Results approach to make the planning easier. Here is more on OKR Kanban.
5. Ensure your communication is clear and intentional
Clarity and transparency are an absolute must in all business communication, but even more essential when setting employee expectations for remote work. They set an honest, positive tone and help ensure that everybody understands what they need to do.
One way to ensure this is to follow up any verbal communication with written communication – and ask team members to confirm that they have read and understood your intention. Talk to the team about choosing the communication channels that will work best for them. Will you use email? A tool such as Slack? Will you have regular remote meetings via video call?
You will usually need a combination of fast instant messaging, slower communication such as email, and a video conferencing medium such as Teams or Zoom, to cater to different team needs.
Need more ideas on how to structure communication in a remote team? Check out our asynchronous communication guide.
6. Decide how to keep your remote team members engaged
Most workplaces today have a blend of traditional office-based employees and remote employees. In this scenario, it’s vital to ensure that your remote employees don’t feel excluded. You must try to ensure they feel like valued members of the team.
You can do this by having regular team get-togethers outside of office hours, or encouraging regular hangs via video call to catch up socially. One of the most obvious ways to do this is to ensure that you have regular team meetings during which the whole team is present, either in person or remotely – or both.
Also, don’t forget to have fun even if you are apart. here are some fun remote team-building games.
7. Schedule regular meetings
As stated above, these are more or less essential to make sure that your remote employees feel engaged and included as valued team members. But you also need to schedule regular meetings with team members to keep track of their progress – especially important when you can’t check on them physically in the same office.
You can set up meetings one-on-one, or have collective team meetings in the form of a standup. Check what are your employee expectations for remote work meetings and adjust the plan accordingly.
8. Set up effective communication tools
Remote communication requires you to use multiple communication tools for various scenarios. To make the most of your available telecommunication tools, be sure you have a way to speak to people directly with your voice (such as over the phone), a video conferencing tool, and messaging software. There are many new communication tools for businesses that integrate messaging, voice, and video chat.
Also, think about the most effective tools to manage your tasks and track progress. Pick something that is easy to use and fits your process, not the other way around.
Take a look at this list of the best remote collaboration tools.
9. Ensure your remote workers have all the resources and equipment they need
You need to support your remote employees with the tools they need to do their job properly. This means both in their home office arrangement and with the software, they’re using. Consider providing team members with home office equipment such as a quality chair with proper lumbar support, or a separate large screen at a comfortable height into which they can plug their laptops.
You may also need to provide company smartphones and encryption software to help optimize data security for team members accessing your servers remotely. It’s also vital to ensure they have the right software and the appropriate licenses for use.
10. Trust them to get on with it
Micromanaging is an easy trap to fall into with remote working, but trusting your employees to work productively without constant supervision is a vital first step toward keeping them motivated and happy. Showing employees that you respect and trust them goes a long way and they will repay this faith in spaces. By communicating clearly, setting clear expectations, and monitoring output and performance, you’ll be able to manage effectively from a distance.
Next steps you can take
Now you’re familiar with some of the best tips for setting employee expectations for remote work, why not check out How to use Teamhood for remote teams?
It is visual, easy to use, and supports asynchronous communication practices. So that the whole team is in the loop and can work on their own terms.
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.