Merge's Blog

Long-distance leadership? Set expectations for work hours and communication standards

Businessman working in the drivers seat in his carIf you’re a manager who has staff that are located remotely, then you know that long-distance leadership has a whole different degree of complexity when it comes to communication and employee motivation. In the past, I’ve offered ideas to facilitate this kind of “virtual” leadership such as setting office hours, planning on at least one informal phone call a week, and obtaining written monthly progress reports, but it’s been a while since I’ve addressed this topic. The subject came up again with a client group recently, so I thought that I’d offer up two more ideas in this week’s blog posts. Here’s the first: set expectations, up front, about work hours, and standards for checking and responding to voice mail and e-mail.

One of the frequent complaints of employees who work on-site in the organization’s home office is that they can’t reach their off-site colleagues when they need to. This problem can be avoided by clearly setting expectations about work hours and creating an accepted schedule for checking and responding to voice mail and e-mail. So for example, the agreement could be that during established office hours, voice mail will be checked and responded to at least once every two hours, and e-mail at least twice daily. This could be more or less frequently; the key is that it’s important to determine up-front when other people can expect to reach the remote employee.

I will have one more specific idea about “remote” working relationships to offer later this week, but in the meantime, what other ideas do you have to overcome the challenges of long-distance leadership? Please share.

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