Business made peace with remote work the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

telecommuting has been offered by many firms since the 1980s, though progress toward remote work has not been linear. When it came to demanding employees come to the office, high-profile companies including AT&T, IBM and Yahoo snapped back. Managers were forced to think about keeping their employees safe and their businesses running in an immediate, concrete sense because of COVID-19.

For the past two decades, Palisades Hudson has offered remote work to employees. I was the firm’s first partially remote employee in 2003 I worked for Palisades Hudson for five years in Westchester County, New York. I needed to move to South Florida after my daughter’s birth. The months leading up to that August were a lot of stress for me. I worried that I would have to leave the firm and find a new job in Florida, which would not have been ideal with a child on the way. I valued the relationships I forged with my colleagues at the firm and I enjoyed working at Palisades Hudson.

I was thought to be worth keeping on staff by the company president. He knew that he wanted to open a second office in Florida since many of his existing clients are snowbirds who spend most of the year in the Northeast. He was willing to allow me to work from home in Florida for two weeks each month and in New York for two weeks. In 2005, we opened the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office after two years of partially remote work. I was the only employee in Florida when I began working on a remote basis. The Fort Lauderdale office has become the headquarters of the company and it has the same number of employees as our Northeast and Atlanta offices.

Thanks to technology, Palisades Hudson was able to work as an integrated team, even as it grew. Larry created a virtual private network that would allow me to access the company’s server from hundreds of miles away when I moved to Florida. As the firm expanded, other technological advances made working across offices seamless: cloud-based server and virtual meeting platforms made working from anywhere more practical, Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems allowed administrative staff in any office to answer the phones for the entire firm, and instant messaging services.

The decision to allow work from home for employees dealing with major life events or natural disasters laid the groundwork for the decisions the executive team and I had to make over the past few years.

In the first uncertain months of 2020 everyone in our firm and outside it did their best to adapt. The majority of our staff was fully remote for 18 months because most employees didn’t come back to the office until fall of 2021. When we came back, many staff members adjusted their schedules to include more remote work. If you want to make remote work part of your business as a manager, you should keep in mind the best practices.

Managing Remote Workers

Set Clear Goals

Regardless of whether workers are remote or not a good manager has clear goals and priorities. If you are used to managing staff in person, the shift to remote work may lead you to examine how you set goals and measure them.

You shouldn’t need to micromanage remote workers more than you do in the office because staff members should be available during their work day. You can’t look into their workspace throughout the day. Strong employees will keep generating quality work, meet deadlines and communicate with you. Productivity is not a useful measure. Employees at home and in the office don’t work at their peak productivity all the time. Good workers will always produce good work.

Do you really need to measure? If an employee is meeting their goals, they are doing well. Prepare to find out why that employee is struggling. If the problem is the worker’s location, don’t assume it’s solved.

Prioritize Clear Communication

If you and your employee are not in the same place, you may need to put more effort into establishing clear and consistent communication. Strategies for working in a different state even if many of you are in an office are familiar for firms like Palisades Hudson.

For everyday communication, instant messaging software can be used to check in occasionally. It is possible for employees with blended schedules to signal their location for the day, or to use status messages to indicate when they are tied up in a phone call.

For scheduled meetings, whether one-on-one or for a larger group, conference calls and zoom meetings allow for a natural give and take. Conference calls have been used for regular check-ins because our management and executive teams are scattered. Both staff members and clients have become more comfortable with virtual meetings when they are needed because of the ubiquity of Zoom, as well as other video conferencing options.

Sometimes it makes sense to switch communication methods when a conversation becomes longer than anticipated. You might start a discussion as an email, but find that it produces more back and forth than you anticipated. Everyone could suggest a quick phone call. Junior staff may hesitate to make such suggestions, so you should take the lead.

It is difficult to determine tone and mood via email or instant message. If you check in by phone or video chat, you can get a better idea of how employees are doing. When possible, schedule these interactions in advance so staff members can manage deadlines and ensure they have a quiet place to talk when they may share their home workspace with pets, spouses or roommates

It’s important to model expectations for responsiveness to various channels. If you’re away from your desk, use away or status messages on Slack to let others know. Your expectations for response times should be transparent. It is normal for an in-office employee to step away to get coffee or use the restroom and build in reasonable expectations for remote employees that balance availability with the knowledge that every employee needs an occasional break.

Think Carefully About Training

Prior to 2020, new hires were not allowed to be permanently in an office or for extended training visits. We had to be flexible on this rule because of the epidemic.

It is possible to train employees who are fully remote with the help of technology. Screen sharing makes it possible for a supervisor to watch while an employee applies new information or more clearly communicate a question or problem, in addition to the communication tools I have already discussed. In order to make it more efficient for a manager to recommend that a new hire watch a session on a particular topic, we regularly record internal training presentations.

It is possible that the biggest challenge in fully remote training is conveying company culture to new staff members. Without a constraint such as the Pandemic in place, we have always emphasized in-person gatherings, such as company-wide retreats, even for more junior staff. Time together in person can be more beneficial for employees to learn about each other and form working relationships that increase employee satisfaction and retention.

Junior staff members feel more comfortable in reaching out for help and support when they need it. It is not possible for a supervisor to simply walk by an employee’s office and see that he or she is overwhelmed. It’s important to feel comfortable reaching out to senior staff for employees who work from home. Without in-person contact, it can be hard to get the guidance and mentoring of a new employee in the first few years.

The new staff members have the chance to learn from their observations. A new hire can hear an experienced colleague talking. There are ways to approach similar issues in the future if you listen to the more experienced staff member. As a manager, it is important to be aware that remote staff may not have access to this type of learning, and so may need expanded formal training compared to their office peers.

Other Management Considerations For Remote Work

Depending on your role, you might have input into policies governing remote work. You should be aware of operational and strategic considerations as well.

Don’t Neglect Digital Security

No matter where employees work, they must protect confidential business and client information. A firm that allows remote work occasionally or permanently needs robust policies to make sure data is secure.

It’s important to communicate and reinforce best practices about employee behavior. They should be included in the annual training for staff. Password protecting any files that contain sensitive information before sending them via email is one of the practices that might include.

Firms should also develop and communicate clear policies about the use of personal equipment when working from home. The use of personal devices may be forbidden by some companies. It is more practical to allow workers to use their own devices for remote work now that cloud-based services are so common.

Guidelines about which operating systems may run and how often you expect users to install updates can be issued if your firm allows workers to use their own hardware. If employees own their own modems or routers, make sure they know how often to check for updates. Hardware and software should be kept up-to-date in order to protect company systems.

How Much Remote Work Should You Allow?

There are benefits and drawbacks to working remotely. You may be considering what is the right mix for your business now that the lockdowns have ended.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to work from home. If you’re in an industry where remote work is possible, you may want to go back to the status quo.

Flexibility around remote work is a powerful retention tool. Not every employer will establish an office in a new state to keep a strong performer. Employees who don’t need to go fully remote are likely to appreciate the ability to deal with short-term emergencies such as a loved one’s illness or an unexpected change in child care arrangements. Firms may be able to offer opportunities to workers who are not able to commute to an office every day if they offer positions that are partially or fully remote. Employers may be able to look for talent in markets where there are fewer on-site employees.

When your employees are in their homes, in another office hundreds of miles away, or just down the hall, being a good manager is not much different. Figuring out how to manage remote workers requires rethinking certain habits and using new tools. Being attentive, transparent and proactive will ensure that your employees thrive in their roles.