According to Inc. Magazine, 37 percent of all American workers have telecommuted. In 1995, that figure was only 9 percent. There are so many online tools to allow workers to telecommute these days, that it is easy to do so. Since telecommuting has literally mushroomed in the past twenty years, it is important for managers to learn skills to help them manage their remote workers.
Keep the Communication Flowing
Inc. suggested that managers are better off communicating too much with remote workers rather than too little. They suggested such simple things as praising workers, taking the time to chit chat (such as inquiring about workers’ home lives and joys), including remote workers in the project management loop, and using workers’ names. This makes remote workers feel valued and respected for their contribution to your company. Forbes Magazine suggested it is key to have some of this interaction be through video conferencing.
An example of simple communication would relate to remote freelance writers. When the manager takes the time to rate and comment on a writer’s work, it goes a long way towards feeling one’s work is respected and that they are a part of the organization.
Ensure Your Expectations are Clear
Since you do not have the ability to engage face-to-face, Forbes stated that it is important expectations are very clearly understood. This is easy to overlook, but the consequences of failing to explain each job’s requirements clearly can damage a relationship with a remote employee who is actually a good performer. Also, CNBC spoke of the economic cost of deadlines that are missed and mistakes made when expectations are not delineated clearly at the outset of a project.
For example, let’s say you have virtual bookkeeping services that you offer to businesses. You have a bookkeeper who is an excellent performer and has an independent contractor relationship with your firm, but you have failed to clearly explain the requirements of the new project. If the employee has gone to a lot of trouble to satisfy the requirements of the job as they understood them, the remote employee is going to be very unhappy to hear that they will have to redo work that they had carefully fulfilled. This makes remote workers feel as though they are being treated like robots, not real people, and leads to missed deadlines.
Ensure that Someone Answers the Questions of Remote Workers Fully
This is another one of those situations that can cause the frustration and eventual loss of truly valuable workers. When the remote worker is trying their best to find the answer to their questions but cannot, they will need to interact with someone who is in-house. If your company has a lot of remote workers, it is best to have some type of a chat in place that remote workers can access at hours that extend a bit beyond the normal business day. Also, emails need to receive a full response that helps the remote worker resolve their issue and get back to work. Otherwise, you risk the remote worker giving up on what they cannot accomplish due to lack of clarity.
An example is a remote customer service representative. This employee needs to have someone to contact when their training does not cover a situation they are encountering. The remote customer service representative also needs a contact point for when the customer is requesting something that the remote employee is not authorized to permit.
There is nothing more frustrating to a motivated remote worker than to contact their company for information, only to receive a response that in no way helps them resolve their question and get back to work. This is especially true for independent contractors, who are not being paid for sitting and doing nothing.
CNBC warns employers to treat all workers with respect, even those who are not in-house. Remote workers are using their own heating, cooling, equipment, and electricity, so they are often saving the company money. Good, productive remote workers represent a cost savings, so companies should be concerned with doing everything possible to maintain their valuable remote workforce.
Ensure the Tools to Do the Job Actually Work
CNBC cautions that employers should ensure that all remote tools, which includes remote communication tools, work properly and effectively before the tools are put into action. An example would be an employer with a large remote workforce in which the chat tool for receiving the company’s help is always down.
Onboard Your Remote Workers
Taking the time to do a full on-boarding process for remote workers also helps to ensure that workers get up to speed quickly and efficiently, which saves in-house employees’ time because the employees at your office will not have to field a lot of questions from new workers that could be handled at the outset of their employment or contract.
Good, productive remote workers represent a cost savings to your organization. They are often using their own heating, cooling, electricity, and equipment to do their work. They need to be kept in the communication loop with clear expectations and feedback, like any employee. They need tools that work, a full on-boarding process that answers the questions they need to begin work efficiently and fully. When they do have questions, full, timely, and detailed responses will help them get back on task. Providing anything less than that risks loss of good employees as well as mistakes and missed deadlines.