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7 ways of managing remote employees

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From increased productivity to decreased turnover, there are many reasons companies are adopting more remote-friendly policies.

Are you ready to make the leap, too, but afraid you might lose control of your team?

Learn how managing remote employees is possible with these seven tips.

1. Don’t buy into the stereotypes

The stereotype of the remote worker lounging by the pool with their laptop is really quite unfair. In fact, research shows that people who work outside the office aren’t slackers at all.

Most remote workers actually complete more work than their onsite colleagues, as they’re able to tackle their work in an environment that’s most suitable for their own productivity.

For example, your project manager can easily get into a flow without office chatter knocking her out of her groove. By breezing through her to-do list, she can tackle even more than she could if she was on site.

A good rule of thumb is to try to put aside the fear that your remote employees are taking advantage of their flexible arrangements and dodging their work. Look at measurable outputs before casting any judgement.

2. Forget traditional office hours

The nine-to-five workday is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The ability for employees to build their own schedule is one of the greatest advantages of working from home.

For example, some employees might benefit from the flexibility to be able to pick up kids from school or take an elderly parent to the doctor during the workday. Meanwhile, others may choose to start their day earlier as they rise with the sun – or burn the midnight oil because they’re night owls.

While it’s reasonable to require remote workers to be accessible for some office hours, you might find that employees are more productive if you let them work at the time they choose. Just be sure to be clear on work expectations.

There may be instances where this type of flexibility isn’t appropriate for the position. If that’s the case, you might reconsider altogether whether a remote work arrangement makes sense for the job at hand.

3. Track timesheets as usual

Employees should be expected to produce the same amount of work as they would if they were working in an office. That’s why, even if you’ve allowed flexibility in terms of work hours, they should still track the hours their work was performed.

Make sure to get accurate timesheets from your remote staff. Not only is this critical data for nonexempt employees who are eligible for overtime pay, but this will also provide insight into the productivity of your exempt employees.

Solid time and attendance software should provide functionality that allows your teleworkers to clock in remotely.

4. Keep an eye on employees who overwork

Remote workers tend to outpace their in-office counterparts. But if you notice your telecommuters are also working longer hours, beware.

Just like your regular, in-office employees, they run the risk of burning out. If you notice a pattern on the timesheet of a work-from-home employee where they’re consistently logging extra hours, encourage them to take advantage of the paid time off (PTO) they have available.

Also, consider other ways you can encourage work-life balance for remote employees who may work more because they’re constantly connected through technology.

Just be sure that any policies you create don’t interfere with the flexibility of working remotely.

5. Make in-office visits and video conferencing a part of the routine

While telework can make your employees more productive, working together makes people more creative.

Consider whether hybrid schedules – where employees work remotely some days and in-office on others – would work well for your teams.

For example, team members might need to work in isolation at home on some tasks (such as building reports), while coming into the office to collaborate with their colleagues at the office on other tasks (like brainstorms).

When appropriate, hybrid schedules can provide a good mix of team collaboration and isolated work time for projects that require more focus and independent thought.

If in-person visits aren’t an option, consider how video conferencing could be utilized to facilitate collaboration.

6. Never use telecommuting opportunities as a prize

While the option to work from home might be a good recruiting and retention tool, it shouldn’t be treated as a mechanism for rewarding employees.

For instance, factors like seniority and performance shouldn’t drive your decision. Instead, when determining if an employee should be eligible for a remote work arrangement, think about the nature of the job and whether it can be better performed from home.

For example, do you need them physically in the building to generate ideas and support their team members the majority of the time? Or, do you really just need them to be productive with a high volume of projects that require concentration without distractions?

Let those factors drive the logistics of where and how your team works.

7. Reward performance as usual

Although remote workers often produce the largest volume of work, they aren’t being rewarded accordingly. That’s because many companies simply reward being present in the office, rather than looking at employees’ accomplishments.

In fact, research shows that remote workers are less likely to be promoted. It seems that being out of sight may be a hindrance for remote workers when it’s time to grant promotions, regardless of the quality of their work or the time they’re putting in.

So, the next time you’re considering promoting a staff member, don’t forget to include work-from-home employees on your list of eligible and deserving candidates.

Even if the new role would require that person to spend more time at the office, let them decide whether they’d like to take on the new responsibility, assuming their performance warrants the opportunity.

Also, consider ways that you can incorporate your remote workers into your company culture to prevent this issue altogether. For example, if you have an all-remote team, consider having an annual retreat where the whole comes together. Or, you might determine that you’d like to reward great performance with a video call from a company leader. The more you make remote workers a part of the team, the easier it will be to remember their strengths when it comes time for promotions.

Move forward into a remote-friendly future

While there are some challenges involved with managing remote employees, this list of tips should help guide you through common hang-ups gracefully.

You’re now better equipped to build a remote-friendly environment where it’s possible to reap the rewards that come with it. With increased productivity and employee morale, you’ll be in an advantageous position as you face off against your competition.

About the author: Karen Cavanaugh

Karen has more than 12 years of experience in the areas of leadership, performance management, strategic planning and employee relations. She is a senior human resource specialist with Insperity where she currently works with clients to identify key HR solutions in order to help clients grow and meet their business goals. Karen has a Master of Business Administration degree and a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification.

Originally published on Vistage Research Center

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