A recent study revealed that 37 percent of workers questioned had worked remotely, compared to just 30 percent nine years earlier. Both results are a substantial leap from the 1995 survey, with only nine percent of respondents admitting to remote-work.
Without a doubt, between ’95 and ’06, the internet became far more accessible. No longer just for education and skilled computer experts, the internet enabled businesses to reduce overheads by allowing remote work.
The proliferation of cloud computing today enables businesses of all sizes to expand their workforce and reduce the number of people using the office at the same time. Many Fortune 1000 companies claim their staff are away from their desks as much as 60 percent of the time, with between 80 and 90 percent of American workers saying the option to work remotely would be advantageous.
Rather than employing workers from their local community, businesses can harness talent from further afield, truly finding the best people for the job rather than going for the most convenient option.
As companies choose to rely on remote workers and freelancers more and more, managing employees can be difficult without their being present in-house.
Difficult, but not impossible. There are several ways you can manage your remote workforce with great effect.
Focus on Productivity
The time an employee spends at their desk doesn’t always equate to productivity. A motivated freelancer or teleworker might complete the same amount of work in four hours as an under motivated would in eight.
Measure your remote employees by the work they produce, rather than the hours they log. If a worker is investing less time than you think is necessary but their results are strong, be sure to focus on the quality rather than time-keeping.
Utilizing Collaboration Technology
Maintaining clear lines of communication with a remote workforce can be difficult. You want to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands exactly what’s expected of them. Businesses should set out explicit guidelines for communication, to keep the workflow as steady and as simple as possible.
Project-management software makes keeping track of progress and assigned tasks easier than having to monitor a team’s activities in the office. Check -in at the start of the working week, and give steady feedback on projects regularly. Taking a lax approach and simply expecting remote workers to know exactly what you expect without your input is likely to end in disappointment.
Try customer relationship management (CRM) tools, which allow a workforce of any size to access materials together, collaborating in real-time. This creates the same mind-mapping and idea-sharing of face-to-face meetings, without the time-consumption and hassle of bringing everyone together.
Use Video To Make Check-ins More Personable
Following on from the above, businesses should use video technology whenever possible to maintain a more personal relationship. Speaking face to face enables you to build a stronger bond of trust and use visual materials to explain ideas and concepts with more accuracy.
While apps like Google Hangouts and Skype are incredibly popular, but if you’re preparing to speak with an employee in foreign countries, network connectivity issues may cause problems. Weaker bandwidth can lead to brownouts and lag, affecting the entire process.
Tony Zhao, CEO of video chat communications company Agora.io, addressed these technical complexities: “Video chat is essential for maintaining good working relationships with a remote workforce and keeping an efficient workflow. Being able to check in and share feedback at any time is incredibly helpful to projects of any size, but when weak connections interfere, businesses can be put off wanting to use video at all.
“Avoiding video can lead to ineffective management, and lead to weaker bonds between employer and employee, as well as colleagues. Reliable video-chat solutions can keep workforces talking, collaborating, and on-target – never underestimate its importance.”
Building Strong Rapport
When working with remote employees, managers can’t see when someone’s struggling with a particular project or simply feeling low. Workers have to trust their employer enough: if they’re having a problem and can’t quite meet their targets, they should be able to say why without fearing dismissal or penalization.
Make it clear that workers can tell you anything as and when they need to. A high level of trust makes working together, even at a distance, far easier.
Balancing Scheduling Issues and Inconveniences
Inevitably, remote workers will be in different time zones. If you’re based in New York and have employees working in Melbourne, you’ll clearly struggle to schedule meetings. However, you must try to find a compromise: one of you may have to get up a little earlier, or put in a little time in an evening.
While this can be frustrating, it should never be a deal-breaker. Creative thinking and give-and-take will help ease any timezone conflicts.
Nurturing a Unique Company Culture
With a workforce based in the same place, building a company culture is easy. However, maintaining the same level of collaboration, friendliness, and working methods with remote employees is more difficult.
Keep workers informed of changes within your company, even those that won’t directly affect them. Offer them input in the direction of their department and working processes. Make sure they understand your brand’s core values and goals.
Make them feel valued and part of the team and they’ll be more loyal. In turn, loyalty leads to better work.
By following the above tips, you can manage your workforce more efficiently, no matter how far and wide they may be scattered.