One of the more progressive and modern business trends is that of the remote worker. Thirty years ago many companies wouldn’t have even imagined hiring an employee, building a team, or running an entire company where no one actually saw each other in the flesh. According to the BLS, In 2015, 23% of employees reported doing some of their work remotely, and this number is up from 19% in 2003. But as this trend continues to grow in popularity, many companies and their leadership still haven’t figured out best practices when it comes to managing remote employees. Here are a few things to think about as you hire remote employees:
- Policies: One of the first places to start when it comes to remote workers is figuring out what sort of policies the company needs to have in place. Technology policies, communications policies, and even remote work policies become critical to companies that employ remote workers. Putting these policies in place prior to remote workers joining the company can be beneficial so that remote workers have some guidelines that they can adhere to once they start. As time goes on, companies should update these policies to address some of the challenges that they have encountered, or refine the policies so that they fit the specific industry that the company is in.
- Management: The actual management of remote employees can be a challenge for managers who are used to managing employees in person. It becomes far more difficult to provide an employee with proper and worthwhile feedback if you’re not interacting with them in real life. There are all sorts of subtle nuances such as body language, tone, and nonverbal communications that happen in person. These can be almost non-existent if you are managing a remote worker. One way to deal with this is by developing a regular cadence with remote workers. This may include weekly video chat check-ins, daily chatting via a chat system, and quarterly in-person get togethers.
- Productivity: In addition to managing remote employees, supervisors also have to manage employee productivity. It becomes challenging to determine what each individual employee’s workload looks like when they aren’t sitting near you. You don’t physically get to see them twiddling their thumbs at their desk or burning the midnight oil while they are trying to get a proposal out the door. One interesting idea that I heard recently was from a company executive that was using a unique productivity and management technique. Each morning, every employee would send their supervisor a list of items they intended to get completed that day, and at the end of the day they would send their supervisor the items that they actually completed that day. That was the only form of technical management that existed in this company.
- Technology: Companies that want to employ remote workers or have a virtual workforce need to get very proficient at understanding how to use technology to help monitor and manage remote employees. Many companies that have virtual employees use software so that will allow their employees to alert their co-workers about whether they’re online or offline; the remote workers use chat systems like Slack where they’re around the clock; they use scheduling tools like Deputy in order to set core work hours to set standards; they use cloud-based software platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive store their files, and some even use virtual offices like Sococo.
Companies should look at remote employment as a massive opportunity as opposed to a liability. The labor market suddenly looks a whole lot bigger once companies are no longer confined to only hiring employees that are in their physical geographic market. This also means that companies may be able to hire more talented people in less expensive markets. This is one trend that businesses should consider as a huge opportunity for them in the future.