How to manage rural remote workers

Remote work is changing how professionals globally are performing their day to day tasks. It has allowed them to work schedules more accommodating to their work-life balance, has reduced commuting stressors, and has even improved productivity for many.

Many jobs are now offering remote work as a viable option for workers that may want to consider it, and with the gen Z & millennial crowd, it is often a perk they look for in a job offer. However, there is working remotely, and then there is rural remote work. Rural remote work is a plus for many small towns and villages, as it keeps talent and money in the local economies.

It is important to bear in mind that working remotely varies, based on an employee’s location. Someone working in their flat in London will have different accommodations than someone working remotely in a farming village or on an island. Managers must be able to understand those differences and how to best support their employees based on where they are located.

Being rural can already provide challenges that are not faced in large cities. These challenges coupled with a required level of productivity and professionalism can weigh heavily on those employees. A manager who can take the location and other extenuating factors into consideration when running a team can help support the employee appropriately and encourage a healthy relationship.

Here are 5 tips for managers to keep in mind when working with rural remote workers!

Ask how you can be supportive

When workers are both remote and rural, they may need a level of support that is different from other workers that are local or in the office. Rural remote workers may need schedules that allow them to be flexible throughout the day, and if they have kids at home, they may need to accommodate them as well.

This can look different from one person to the next, but may include not scheduling meetings when they may have to feed children, or allowing them to do portions of their work in the early morning or late evening hours. It is important to ask, and not make assumptions, but as a manager, you want to make them feel they are in a safe space when discussing their needs.

Be forgiving for technological delays

Keep in mind that remote working is one thing when it comes to internet connections, but rural workers can have another level of struggle when it comes to internet connection. In fact, they may not even have the internet, but solely use their phone as a hotspot.

This may mean that they may have to turn their cameras off from time to time, or there may be delays or buffering when participating in video calls. It may be easy to get frustrated, but try to be patient and work through the issue. If it becomes a consistent problem, look into how your company can support their work environment better, or allow them to work in a public setting, such as a coffee shop or rural coworking space.

Be aware of unforeseen events affecting productivity

Speaking of technology glitches, it’s important to consider unforeseen events that may affect the employee’s productivity. If a storm hit and knocked down a power line, that could be a problem. Or, maybe there is an issue with needing to pick up their child from daycare early, however, the daycare is miles away instead of just around the corner.

There are a plethora of things that can happen that can interrupt productivity, and sometimes being rural means it may take more time to address those issues. That’s ok, but it is crucial to understand that these things happen.

Provide more time one on one

Because your employee is rural, it may be necessary to schedule more time with them than others, even if it’s just an extra 20 minutes per week. These workers may be a bit isolated, and it can help them feel valued if you take the time to encourage them with an extra chat or two.

This can also be helpful in forming a better relationship with your rural employee, which can in turn improve productivity. Getting to know each other a little more can make you seem more human to each other and can contribute to the rest of the team feeling more cohesive, as well. Speaking of team…

Make them feel included in the team

Scheduling a coffee hour on Monday mornings before the week gets going, or a virtual “happy hour” on Thursday afternoons can help the team relax a bit and form bonds that help them work better together. Rural employees can easily feel left out, so seeing others outside of rushed and rigid meetings can help form bonds.

You can also have a general group chat that is for random topics or casual conversation as a way to keep the team interacting throughout the week. Encourage employees to share things about themselves, such as their favorite movies and have them rotate on who gets to choose the next topic. You may be surprised at what you learn, as well!

At the end of the day, rural remote employees are team members that need your support and understanding as any member would. But, you’re on your way to being an excellent manager when you can provide patience, proper communication, and time.

Learn more about the support you can provide to your remote team: How to keep your team productive while working remotely