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As remote work becomes mainstream, managing remote staff effectively is imperative for organisational success. Without the right strategies, a lack of oversight and disconnectedness can negatively impact productivity, morale, and results. Consequently, managers face unique challenges in motivating their teams, evaluating performance, and building cohesive teams when collaborating across locations, time zones and cultures.

The rise of remote work – especially since the Pandemic in 2020 – has fundamentally transformed the modern workplace. Technologies like video conferencing, online collaboration tools, and communication platforms have enabled organisations to build robust distributed workforces and tap into talent anywhere around the globe.

This article provides business leaders with practical guidance on managing remote staff successfully. It covers setting clear expectations, conducting performance reviews and building trust-based relationships. Additionally, it covers resourceful tips for enabling effective communication, and taking a goal-oriented approach supervising fully remote staff. With the right frameworks, managers can reap the full benefits of remote work while ensuring teams remain accountable, engaged, and aligned with organisational objectives.

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How to Manage the Performance of Remote Staff

Managing the performance of remote employees starts with setting clear expectations around their roles, responsibilities, and goals. To implement this effectively:

Define Roles and Responsibilities

Have a clear job description that outlines the remote employee’s core responsibilities, duties, and expectations. Ensure they understand their specific tasks, workflows, and priorities.

Establish Measurable Goals

Set concrete goals that align with overall business objectives. Make goals quantifiable and easy to track, such as targets for sales, productivity, customer satisfaction scores, or output. Eventually, tie goals to incentives thttp://rel=”nofollow”o further drive performance. At Ivy Tech, we’ve been working on the OKRs framework (Objectives and Key Results) because it promotes transparency and ambition, which we found particularly challenging to achieve in a completely remote setting.

Regular Check-ins

Frequent check-ins with remote employees are a vital component of performance management and overall success. Managers should schedule regular virtual one-on-one meetings to touch base and discuss progress.

These check-ins provide an opportunity to:

  • Get to know the employee better. What drives them, what brings them joy, what are blockers the company can address to move forward in their role
  • Recognise achievements and progress made since the last check-in
  • Review current projects and tasks
  • Address any concerns or obstacles the employee is facing
  • Provide constructive feedback to continue improving performance
  • Set goals for the next check-in period

As a fully remote company, we’ve recently adopted a new strategy to boost our productivity and create a sense of unity. Our COO, Cameron, does monthly 15-minute “One-to-Fun” check-ins with each developer on our team to connect on a personal level, as well as identify any potential challenges and opportunities.

The check-ins should facilitate open communication between manager and employee. With remote teams, taking the time to connect one-on-one makes employees feel valued. In other terms, it’s an opportunity for the manager to listen and provide guidance, while the employee can give updates, ask questions, and raise any issues.

Without face-to-face time, building trust can take longer, so it is the key that virtual meetings happen very frequently – and the managers make a great effort to create a safe space for the team members.

Employee Performance Reviews

Performance reviews – or as we like to call them “progress reviews” – are a valuable opportunity to provide constructive feedback to fully remote staff, celebrate achievements, and identify areas for improvement. They should be conducted regularly, such as quarterly or bi-annually.

When conducting performance reviews for remote staff, managers should:

  • Highlight achievements and successes over the review period. Recognising accomplishments is critical for maintaining motivation and engagement among remote employees. For instance, review goals met, projects completed ahead of schedule, positive feedback received, and other wins.
  • Provide constructive feedback for improvement. While emphasising achievements, also identify areas where the remote employee can enhance their performance. Provide specific and actionable suggestions to work on for the next review cycle.
  • Offer professional development opportunities. Discuss how the manager and organisation can support the remote employee’s growth through training courses, mentorship programs, new assignments, and other development activities. After all, investing in professional growth is the key to retention.
  • Set new goals for the next review period. Collaboratively define new performance goals and targets to work towards before the next formal review. Setting clear objectives provides a focus for professional growth.
  • Make it an open discussion. Allow the remote employee to give upward feedback and share their own perspective on achievements and areas for improvement. In that case, maintain an open dialogue and two-way communication.
  • Follow-up after the review. Send a written summary highlighting key points from the review discussion. Use the regular check-ins we discussed earlier to track the progress.

By making performance reviews a priority and focusing them on development rather than an opportunity to micro-manage, managers can motivate fully remote staff, recognise their contributions, and promote continuous improvement.

Encourage remote employees to take full ownership of their work. Emphasise meeting objectives and key results (OKRs) rather than monitoring how they spend their time. Offer support when needed but trust remote staff to do their work without micromanagement. Eventually, focus on outcomes and results. Don’t try to control their process.

Clear Communication Channels

Effective communication is essential for managing remote staff successfully. With employees working in dispersed locations, it can be challenging to ensure that information flows seamlessly. For this reason, establishing clear guidelines and norms for communication across the distributed team is crucial.

To facilitate open and transparent communication among fully remote staff, managers should:

  • Set expectations for response times to emails, messages, and other inquiries. For example, establish a policy that all team members should acknowledge requests within 12 hours during the work week.
  • Specify preferred communication channels and tools. While email may work for some situations, real-time collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams enable instant messaging and keep conversations organised.
  • Create guidelines for meeting etiquette. For example, require video to be on during virtual meetings and explain expectations around muting, chat functionality, and asking questions.
  • Ask team members to come prepared with an agenda for each meeting to ensure effective use of time. 
  • Document and share key information. Take detailed notes during meetings and summarise action items and deadlines for remote staff afterward.

By proactively addressing how the team communicates, managers enable information to flow seamlessly. Remote employees have clarity around expectations, leading to a more cohesive and productive team. As a manager, you must lead by example and let your communication be clear and timely.

alt=”How to Manage Remote Staff Without Micromanaging”

How to Manage Remote Staff Without Micromanaging

Adopt a Goal-Oriented Approach

Set ambitious yet achievable goals for your remote employees and encourage them to meet deadlines independently. Focus on empowering your team to take ownership of their work rather than micromanaging their process.

Using a company-wide framework like OKRs, which is widely used by companies like Google, Slack and Amazon, you will naturally promote transparency and ambition. The philosophy behind OKRs is to set clear but ambitious goals as an organisation and invite each individual within their department to do their bit to reach those goals. That whole process is run in a very transparent and organised way.

A framework like OKRs will emphasise the importance of achieving established goals and hitting deadlines. Showing trust in your remote staff will make them use their time for the growth of the company.

When setting goals, make sure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). Check-in periodically to monitor progress, but avoid scrutinising day-to-day activities. Evaluate your fully remote staff based on their ability to complete quality deliverables according to schedule.

“This topic comes up a lot, and I have always felt confident that the value creation is within trust between team members. If I trust you, I will hold you accountable for delivering, and if we are both working toward the same goal and outcome, we will avoid micromanagement.” Cameron Smith, COO at Ivy Tech

Encourage self-motivation by praising remote employees when goals are met. Recognise that they thrive on autonomy and that your role is to provide the right framework to align their talents with organisational objectives. After all, when remote staff feel trusted to operate independently, they become more driven to excel. 

Leverage Collaboration Tools

Implementing the right collaboration tools can streamline workflows and enhance teamwork across remote teams. Platforms such as Slack, Trello, and Asana provide valuable functionality:

Slack is a popular business chat platform that enables seamless communication through instant messaging, video calls, and file sharing. It allows public and private channels to facilitate conversations based on topics, projects, or teams. As a fully remote company, we are actively employing it for managing our daily communication.

Trello utilises Kanban-style boards to visualise workflows and projects. Tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities can be managed through its card system, enabling collaboration across teams.

Asana is a powerful project management tool that allows teams to track projects, assign tasks, set deadlines, and report on progress. Its intuitive interface makes it easy for teams to collaborate on complex projects and have clarity on who is responsible for what.

People Force is an essential instrument in our HR toolkit. It offers comprehensive features for onboarding, ensuring that new hires smoothly transition into their roles and the company culture. Additionally, it simplifies offboarding processes and handles administrative tasks associated with employee departures. Furthermore, it facilitates employee engagement through surveys and polls and streamlines documentation processes, ensuring compliance with HR policies and regulations.

The right collaboration tools connect distributed teams through seamless communication, task management, and project coordination. As a result, they provide oversight into teamwork, ensure accountability, and ultimately enable remote teams to collaborate as efficiently as co-located teams.

Encourage Virtual Team Building

Fostering team camaraderie is essential for fully remote staff to build strong relationships and enhance team dynamics. With employees working in dispersed locations, managers should make concerted efforts to bring remote teams together through virtual team-building activities.

Creative activities that encourage social interaction allow remote employees to get to know each other on a more personal level. For example, icebreaker sessions where team members introduce themselves and share details about their personal lives can be a good starting point.

Schedule collaborative activities that require cooperation across the remote team. Group challenges or games facilitated over video chat can encourage bonding. Enable the use of gifs, memes, and emojis to add fun.

Conduct in-person team meetups when possible. Annual or quarterly offsite meetings allow fully remote staff to collaborate face-to-face and strengthen interpersonal bonds. Even informal team dinners or activities during conferences can offer valuable relationship-building opportunities.

In 2023, we had a thrilling team offsite in Warsaw, Poland, where we turned into explorers during a city quest. The adventure extended into a team photoshoot, capturing the spirit that makes us a community. Work and entertainment seamlessly blended In Lviv, Ukraine. We had a delightful cocktail workshop, symbolising our ability to succeed together, no matter where.


Managing remote staff requires a thoughtful approach that implements key strategies across multiple facets of management. As outlined in this article, setting clear expectations, conducting regular check-ins, establishing performance metrics, and nurturing trust-based relationships are all critical for managing the performance of remote employees.

Avoiding micromanagement requires empowering fully remote staff through open communication, goal-oriented workflows, and collaboration tools. In particular, when supervising a remote team, virtual team building, unambiguous communication channels, regular feedback, and flexibility are essential.

Overall, managing remote staff takes planning, transparent communication, and cultivating an environment of accountability and trust. By following the strategies and best practices covered in this article, managers can unlock the immense potential of remote work arrangements while ensuring optimal productivity and performance. With the right approach, businesses can reap the benefits of enhanced flexibility, access to talent, and improved employee satisfaction that managing successful remote teams provides.

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