Remote employees are increasingly common in today’s businesses. According to a New York Times article published last year, the number of remote workers—which includes full-time telecommuters, self-employed freelancers, and other professionals whose work is traditionally done outside an office—could presently be as high as 30 percent of the American workforce.
As an employer, offering work-from-home flexibility can increase your company’s appeal in the eyes of job candidates—giving you a competitive edge in the war for top talent. Additionally, outsourcing some projects to self-employed freelancers can help you reduce your operating costs, free the time of your on-site staff for more important tasks, and expand your resources. The key, however, is managing these remote employees successfully. Consider the following best practices.
Just like on-site workers, remote employees need to understand what you expect from them. At minimum, take some time before every project to outline measurable goals and expected results. You don’t have to give your remote team step-by-step instructions for the job—though you may choose to do so in some cases. Often, it’s best to allow them to develop their own methods.
It can be all too easy to neglect team members you don’t see or interact with every day. Make a point to touch base with your remote workers on a regular basis. Depending on your business, their role in it and the project at hand, this might mean twice-weekly emails to check on status, a weekly phone call to answer questions and discuss progress, or even video chats.
Don’t Rely on Email Alone
You’re busy, and so are your remote workers. If an email thread is expanding exponentially, save everyone some time and connect on the phone instead. An interactive verbal discussion is often a faster way to collaborate than back-and-forth email messages. You might even want to use an instant messaging platform for faster written discussions.
Find Ways to Interact Face-to-Face
While it’s not always possible—especially if your company’s remote workers are in other geographic areas—try to find ways to meet with them face-to-face. Invite those who live nearby to attend staff meetings, on-site trainings and teambuilding activities. If you travel to a city in which you have remote employees, set up a coffee or lunch date.
One of the reasons many professionals value remote work opportunities is because they enhance work-life balance. Unfortunately, one of the quickest ways to destroy that balance is to disregard the difference in time between yourself and your remote workers in other states and/or countries. Pay attention to time zones and reach out to colleagues during their normal working hours whenever possible.
Make them Feel Valued
They may not work on-site, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Keep your remote team informed about the latest company happenings. Let them know how their contributions are contributing to the organization’s success. Ask them for their opinions on decisions that may affect them. And always make sure they get credit for their work.