With all the advances in technology, it is no longer absolutely essential your employees all be in the same physical location. Communication and collaboration can be done effectively and efficiently no matter the distance. Remote workforces offer numerous benefits, from reduced costs to being able to secure top-notch workers regardless of where they live. It offers greater flexibility, which is becoming more important to a workforce that is more serious about pursuing a better balance between their work life and personal life. And while this practice is becoming increasingly common, it is far from the ‘norm,’ and many companies are still learning how to do this as successfully as they can. Here are just a few of the ‘best practices’ for managing employees remotely.
Consider What is Necessary for Managing a Remote Workforce
Things will go most smoothly if you have a clear idea going in what is needed to manage a remote workforce, and what the workers need to do their jobs properly. Of course there will be tweaking and changes along the way as you evaluate, but careful thought in the beginning will get things off on the right foot. The Complete Small Business Guide to Digitally Signed Documents, for example, can get you started on how to best handle documentation requiring signatures from your remote employees. Talk to your IT staff to get an idea of what programs are needed, and what needs to be done to hook them up to the system.
Focus on the ‘Work’ When Hiring
This tip may sound kind of obvious, but it is easy to get distracted by other elements of a person’s resume, regardless of whether he will be working in a traditional office or at home halfway across the country. While this tip is important regardless, it is particularly so for hiring remote workers since their ‘work’ is going to form the core of your communications with this person. Her personality and other elements you may typically look at to get an idea of whether she would fit with the company culture, may not be as important for the nature of the work being performed for the company.
In fact, it might be a good idea to give some sort of test project to gauge performance before offering a position with your company.
Help Familiarize Them with the Office Even if They Aren’t There
If you are used to working in a traditional office environment, there are probably lots of things you take for granted, and would not even realize may be an issue for someone who is working remotely. If you have to ask someone a question, you can simply walk to their office and get the answer you need in two seconds, for example. Do your best to connect remote employees with the office as best you can. Make sure they know all the different departments, and who heads them. Give them names and contact information for the various people who can help them with specific questions, from IT to accounting. Put together slide shows, charts and any other visuals that will assist them.
Schedule Check Ins
While you will always be in communication regarding projects and other work-related matters, it is also important to schedule time to just talk about how things are going in general. This will give employees a chance to express any concerns and give you a general idea of how they are faring in the position. These check ins will help create a more effective working relationship, and alert you to any issues of which you may not be aware.
Decide How You Will Gauge Productivity
It can be harder to evaluate an employee’s productivity when he is not physically located in the office with you. This is why it is very important you determine what you expect out of a worker in this role. How will you measure productivity and determine if you are getting the results you desire? If your remote workers are customer service reps, for example, you may want to put some sort of system in place that tracks how many calls were taken, or how many help tickets were handled.
Handling remote workers can be a challenge, and there will be a learning curve. The most important thing to remember is the importance of regularly evaluating the situation to get an idea of what is working and what isn’t. Don’t set a system in place, and just leave it like that.