Remote Control: Effectively Managing Offsite Employees
If an employee is working somewhere besides the office where the manager works, are you confident that they have the support and resources to work effectively? According to recent Paychex research, they may not have what they need. In fact, the 2017 Pulse of HR survey found that only a third of HR professionals felt their organization is very effective at addressing the needs of remote workers. Respondents specifically identified the challenges of managing and overseeing work, as well as assimilating these remote workers into the work culture and environment. So while having remote workers can broaden the scope of what companies can achieve, HR teams should also look for ways to support managers in managing remote workers in a way that they are delivering maximum productivity and efficiency. You can help set remote workers up for success by:
Starting with the "must-haves." Certain key elements must be in place before getting your remote workforce up to speed. First, you may want to create a work-from-home policy and specific procedures outlining the remote working arrangement, such as hours of availability, frequency of communications, etc. Availability can be a critical factor in situations where the remote employee is located in a different time zone or travels frequently.
Next, companies must contend with the challenges presented by remote workers and data security. There may be risk of remote employees logging into your network through an unsecured source and downloading sensitive data that may be lost or stolen. As a precautionary measure, work with your IT department to design best-practice security measures for off-site workers, establish policies they must agree to follow, and implement security software and services that minimize the risk of a data breach.
Onboarding your remote employees. Much like with onsite employees, offering a thorough orientation and onboarding experience can help you manage remote employees more effectively in the long run. Using digital technology, you can provide these workers with videos, webinars, and other resources to learn more about your company, including its history, culture, and policies, as well as virtual tours of the workplace and introducing them to onsite co-workers.
You may even want to schedule 15- to 30-minute "get-to-know-you" phone conversations with appropriate team members. These calls can "foster collaboration and take some of the pressure off the manager to be the exclusive contact person."
Clarifying and communicating your expectations. Since remote workers lack daily face-to-face in-person contact with managers, it's critical that they understand what's expected of them while on their own. Early on, set specific goals for the work you expect them to produce, along with agreed-upon deadlines and other dates related to anticipated deliverables. Provide appropriate in-house points of contact as well. The key is communicating as much as possible via chat, email, Skype, phone – whatever technological resource is considered the most effective for maintaining close contact. A key element of proper management is ensuring that the remote worker doesn't feel cut off or isolated from the business.
Keeping track of progress. There's a variety of software offering automated options for keeping track of the work remote employees do. In addition, you can request that these workers provide either daily or weekly updates, and encourage them to ask questions or report any obstacles they encounter along the way.
As time goes on, you can develop processes that can be replicated by future remote workers, thus minimizing errors in workflow. When members of the team "consistently document steps and notes for any recurring work they do," says Emily Morgan at Huffington Post, others on your team "can easily hop in and cover one another without missing a beat."
Ultimately, your remote workforce should be managed and provided with resources in much the same way as your onsite employees. Being "out of sight" shouldn't mean "out of mind" as far as remote employees go. As with on-site employees, when managed effectively, your remote employees can be extremely productive.