Posted August 26, 2020

Exclusive: Successfully managing remote employees

Working from home has been a dream for many employees, but now the reality — and the problems — begin to set in.


Working from Home (WFH) and remote working are more widespread due to stay-at-home rules and fear of catching Covid-19. 

Problems with Working from Home

According to  survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA TODAY and LinkedIn include: 

  • 49% spend work time with friends and family, including by phone and online
  • 51% feel lonely while they work from home
  • 37% put more time on social media, Twitter, and Facebook
  • 25% admit their productivity decreased
  • 43% communicate less with co-workers than before
  • 31% grumble about having no separation between work and home

These problems harm a company in a number of ways. First, distractions and no direct supervision can harm work ethic. Second, employees are paid to be productive. They are not paid to socialize, use social media or do personal activities during their work hours. 

Third, these WFH problems can harm a company’s organizational culture. Most companies encourage a culture of productivity, teamwork, and actually working while being paid. However, by paying WFH employees who provide lower productivity and less teamwork, a company sets new, lower standards for its employees. These organizational culture problems could be hard to reverse.

Solutions to Manage a Productive Remote Workforce

1.  List Work Tasks & Deadlines

Each day, give employee list work tasks employee must complete by a certain day or time. Then, inspect what you expect: See if employee completed the list on-time. If yes, then praise employee. If no, then offer to help the employee ‘shape up or ship out.’ 

Harvard Business Review published an article about this:

2.  Schedule Appointments with Each Employee

This helps managers in two ways. First, scheduling appointments with employees shows you are serious about keeping communication flowing, even if you and employee are not in same location. Second, appointments emphasize to employee the need to keep to a schedule. Third, appointments make it easier for managers to keep tabs on their workers

3.  Surprise Check-Ins

Every once in a while, call the employee on-phone. See if they answer quickly. Ask them what they are doing. Compare their work activities to the list of work tasks and deadlines. 

4.  Ask Employee about Personal Life & Emotions

Yes – work is supposed to focus on work. But in this Work from Home and remote working and pandemic environment, many employees will appreciate you asking something like this: “Let’s talk about some non-work things. What’s going on with you?” Listen empathically. Focus on what the employee is doing and emotionally feeling. Do not criticize anything the employee says. Keep in mind, you may be the only person in the employee’s life who asks about their personal life, and sensitively listens with kindness, caring and encouragement. 

5.  Use Technology to Make WFH and Productivity Succeed

Make sure each remote employee has good equipment, connections, file-sharing capabilities, and videoconferencing. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has emphasized these technology tips:


Thanks to WFH, managers now need to be extra-careful when they hire. Managers need employees with good work ethic who are likely to be productive and collaborative, even if they are not in the office. 

In my research using pre-employment tests to determine if a job candidate might make a productive employee, here are some test scores to focus on a lot. A good work from home employee is likely to receive these personality test scores:

High pre-hire test scores on

  • Honesty
  • Following Rules, Policies, & Procedures
  • Working Well Under Pressure
  • Optimism
  • Motivation to Help People
  • Prefers to Work in Only 1 Location
  • Self-Discipline

Moderate test scores on

  • Friendliness
  • Assertiveness
  • Teamwork & Collaboration

On cognitive aptitude tests (mental abilities tests), you still should prefer job applicants who get the same intelligence test scores as your best employees in each specific job.  Reason:  Managers need to focus on hiring job candidates who have enough brainpower to (a) learn the job plus (b) correctly think through situations encountered in their work. 

Skillfully Manage Productive Remote Workforce

Managing a remote workforce will be needed for a while.  As such, manage in this WFH environment so you have remote employees who get their jobs done in a productive and timely fashion. 

Realize WFH presents many new and unique problems for employee engagement, productivity, emotions, and organizational culture.  Implementing specific management actions will result in a productive workforce, a positive corporate culture, and hiring job applicants who quickly adapt and excel in remote working. CS

Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is business psychologist and author of 6 books, including “Hire the Best & Avoid the Rest.” He researched and created all 3 “Forecaster” pre-employment tests. Many companies use “Forecaster Tests” to assess job applicants. You can see information about his 3 “Forecaster” pre-employment tests at or by calling Dr. Mercer’s office at 847-521-2554. 

© Copyright 2019/2020 Mercer Systems LLC Reprinted with permission.