Management & Organization

Virtual management: How to keep you employees happy

More and more employees work on the distance and there are plenty of reasons. One of the more important ones is a better balance between work and personal time. Research show that long-distance employees are generally more satisfied with their work/life balance.

But ironically, this balance may prove to be particularly challenging if you aren't at the office every day. Because even though working from home is usually seen as the solution to burn out for traditional employees, a long-distance employee may get stressed for totally different reasons.

Here, several factors come into play:

  • Sense of isolation which, among other things, is due to lack of chance and personal conversations.
  • Sense of slow, or lack of, promotions compared to employees at the main office. The case of ‘out of sight, out of mind'.
  • Challenges regarding separating private life and work life.

So how do you keep long-distance employees satisfied and motivated and prevent them from burning out? That is what this article is about as we dive into a report which summarizes results within this area of research.   


First tip: Hire the right employees.

Hire employees who do well with virtual/long-distance work. Some employees are better at working virtually/on the distance than others. According to the study, suited candidates contain both strong technical skills (that make them capable of communicating virtually) and strong social skills (so that they can maintain a social connection to employees and management despite the distance). Besides they are organized and flexible and have a low level of neurotic behavior. They are robust, extrovert and self-confident.


Second tip: Communicate, communicate, communicate.

When leading an ordinary team it's important to communicate a lot. If you are leading a distributed or virtual team it's even more important. Short, frequent communication helps mediate the company’s culture and replaces the casual meetings which ever so often occur on a regular workplace. Also, make sure that you provide informal feedback when you communicate with your long-distance employees. It's important that they know that their work is noticed and feel that it has value. This helps create a tight connection between leader and employee and it reduces their sense of isolation.

Communication with long-distance employees often take place on various internal social networks which functions as both community building and knowledge sharing.

The downside of virtual communication is that it may create misunderstandings, thus making the phone the most used communication tool.


Third tip: Build trust

According to the study this is one of the most difficult elements of virtual management for many leaders. Because, how do we ensure that our employees actually work when we have no daily physical contact? As leader, you must locate the balance between micro managing and not keeping too much distance or seem absent to your employee.

Trust is not only good for the leader. Several research results show that employees who have contributory influence display greater involvement and are more motivated and productive.

The three tips described above are valuable. If you work consciously with this you reduce the risk of having burnt out long-distance employees.