Remote work is on the rise. A report from Flexjobs projects that 3.9 million Americans work from home at least part-time. This is a 115 percent rise compared to 1.8 million in 2005. Hiring managers in the report predicted that one-third of employees would work from home in 10 years. This data is a strong indicator that you are likely to manage an employee who works from home in the next decade.
Allowing employees to work from home is proven to lower the turnover rate and decrease real estate and overhead costs, two things from which small business owners can benefit. So, how do you help your employees manage this perk? Read on for six tips for working with and managing workers who work at home.
If done correctly, remote work can increase productivity and the overall employee performance. However, you have to be clear about what you are looking for from these workers. Is there a specified period during the day that they need to be accessible for calls? Are there specific programs you need them to use to track time worked? Whom do they need to contact if they need to take time off? It is crucial to be upfront about what you are looking for from them to ensure everything runs smoothly from the beginning.
Set-Up Regular Meetings and Short Check-Ins
Your staff needs to meet with you on a regular basis to clarify any questions and confirm if they are meeting expectations. This statement is even more true for those who work at home. These individuals do not have the luxury to stop by your office to ask questions or show you what they are working on. It helps to carve out at least five to ten minutes a day for remote workers to ask questions and reveal what their projects are throughout the day. It also helps to meet with the entire staff at least once a week and involve remote workers through video or conference call. This act can help everyone feel they are on the same page.
Utilize the Right Tools
This is not only something that will benefit your employees who work from home. Today, customers expect a fast turnaround on service and the delivery of their goods. Agile business processes are used by many companies to satisfy the expectation of customers and clients. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in project management and virtual communication systems. Project management software programs allow you to delegate tasks, monitor progress and even project how long a job would take to complete. Many of these can be integrated with virtual communication systems that enable workers to talk with each other as they complete tasks. These programs allow remote workers to stay in the loop and reveal their progress throughout the week.
Be Wary of Time Zones
Understand how time zones will impact each of your positions in your company. If you are thinking of hiring a remote worker in a high leadership position or one that will need to communicate within a specific time period, then you may want to have someone in a time zone that overlaps with your business hours. However, if you have positions where communication can happen at any time, then it makes sense to open up your talent pool to look at other locations outside of your time zone. Communication is probably the most crucial part of ensuring a smooth and well-run work environment, and time plays a considerable role in this.
Make Sure They Feel as If They Are a Part of The Team
Be careful of the language you use when referring to employees who do not work in the office. Do not foster an “us vs. them” culture among both groups. Treat them as you would a regular employee. Also, even though they are not visible in the office, make sure their work does not go unnoticed. Recognize and acknowledge what they do. It is easy for remote workers to feel invisible, so take as many moments as possible to let them know you see how they are assets to the company. Also, make a point to include them in fun office activities creatively.
Encourage Non-Work-Related Interactions
This step is where that virtual communication system comes into play. Programs like Slack make it easy to create chat rooms for various types of work communications. Encourage social interactions between remote and non-remote workers by having a “watercooler” chatroom that allows employees to engage in light-hearted conversations. They can share photos of family, discuss vacation plans, and get to know one another in a way that enhances how they work with one another.
Managing any team is not an easy task, but working with a group that is not in the office can add an extra layer of complexity. While sometimes challenging, the process of managing employees who work from home does not have to bring chaos. By setting clear expectations, putting communication front and center, and ensuring they feel like a part of the team you can set remote workers up to thrive in your company.
10 Stats About Remote Work, remote.co/10-stats-about-remote-work/
How to Manage Remote Direct Reports, hbr.org/2015/02/how-to-manage-remote-direct-reports
How to Manage Remote Employees Successfully, www.entrepreneur.com/article/295578
The State of the Remote Job Marketplace, www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/state-of-the-remote-job-marketplace/