The pandemic made a remote, dispersed workforce the norm — even in the drilling industry — and it looks like it’s here to stay. Understandably, many leaders feel lost as to how they can manage employees that they rarely see. In today’s article, we’ll look at some of the best practices you can easily implement to manage your remote workforce.

Setting Clear Expectations

Setting clear expectations sounds easy enough, but some things can get lost in translation when not communicated in person — particularly expectations around timing. In person, you may be able to check in easily, casually mention in passing the other tasks that rely on your employee finishing their work, or employ other methods of informal communication that don’t happen organically with a remote work set-up. When managing remotely, it’s important to set expectations and gauge productivity among your staff by setting time-sensitive goals. Clearly define tasks and goals for your employees, and make yourself available for questions or concerns.

Regular Engagement

Engaging remote employees can be tricky business. According to a Gallup article published in July 2021, only 36% of U.S. workers feel engaged with their work — and those who are actively unengaged not only report feeling miserable about their job, they’re also highly likely to leave for another role.

That’s why engaging with employees frequently is crucial — but it’s also important not to communicate just for the sake of communicating. Make your check-ins with the team meaningful. Use a variety of communication methods with the crews: video calls, emails, phone calls and text messages. Most importantly, communicate with purpose. No one wants a “How’s your week going?” call to interrupt their work.

Engaging with your remote employees regularly will create opportunities for leaders to strategize collaboratively, talk about career planning, conduct coaching sessions or even just to provide informal feedback. Get the best impact on employee engagement by making sure your conversations relate to professional, performance-related or personal growth goals.

Focusing on Goals vs. Activity

It can be very easy for remote employees to feel like they’re being micromanaged, especially if their manager has never managed remote employees before. One way to avoid this is focus on the goals set for (and communicated to) the employee, rather than their activity. This requires a certain level of trust, in that you don’t necessarily need to know what the employee does daily that contributes to their goals, as long as the goals are reached.

One of the surest ways to promote both trust and productivity among your employees is to establish solid relationships and bonds. A good relationship between an employee and manager can have a positive effect on the employee’s focus or productivity in the workplace. Some ways that you can create these bonds include:

  • Showing gratitude and appreciation regularly
  • Offering guidance and support, when needed
  • Showing an interest in employee’s personal lives
  • Creating opportunities for employees to advance or invest in their growth and development
  • Communicating regularly 
  • Allowing employees the chance to provide you with feedback and suggestions, so it’s not just a top-down process.

Whether you’ve been a manager for 10 days or 10 years, following these three best practices will help you create positive working relationships with your employees and ensure they can work effectively in a remote environment.