Managing Remote Employees

Hiring remote employees, or “telecommuters,” and—the other side of that coin—working remotely, are concepts that are becoming more and more normalized in modern workplace environments.

In addition to a growing freelance economy and “work flexibility” becoming a higher priority for many, smart companies are learning that hiring good help is always the smart thing to do even if that help isn’t local or doesn’t fit any existing roles. A post from references several statistics that help describe this continuing shift.

As the stats suggest:

  • 86% of remote workers prefer working alone to “hit maximum productivity.”
  • 67% of managers report higher overall output from remote workers.
  • 30% of remote workers feel they accomplish more in less time; 24% feel they accomplish about the same amount.
  • Using remote employees commonly decreases attrition rates and has been reported as a “highly profitable” arrangement for companies.
  • Large companies such as Aetna and American Express report significant annual savings from employing remote workers.
  • 68% of millennial job seekers gravitate towards positions in which remote work is an option.
  • 50% of part-time remote workers want to increase their remote hours.

While these stats are not definitive proof of any revolution, they do seem to suggest a growing acceptance of the value of work-from-home employees. If you’re thinking about hiring someone to work outside of the office for the first time, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Tips for Managing Remote Employees

Remote People Are People Too

Consistent with Internet culture at large, it can be easy to lose sight of your remote team members as the living, breathing people they are. They are people with skills, home lives, and career aspirations. It is wise to learn about your remote team members, just the same way you would with those you see every day. This is one of the potential pitfalls of employing someone you don’t actually see all that often. When you finally do speak, it can be tempting to stick strictly to business talk, but for such relationships to flourish, it can be important to work in some time for small talk and other personal touches. Get to know you remote workers; the mutual appreciation will be much stronger, and that tends to be good for business.

Which leads to the next tip …

Use Video Calls Frequently

Video calls make people feel more engaged in their team and their projects. This is certainly a better option than an audio-only call, and some reports even suggest that engagement is stronger through video than in-person. Whatever you feel is best for keeping your team engaged, video calls are essential for team building as remote employees will miss out on the non-verbal cues of their colleagues without it. Consider using Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, or even Facebook Chat for smaller meetings, and a web conferencing service such as GoToMeeting if you require something more formal.

Make Time For One-on-Ones

Every office space flirts with the risk of over-meeting, but employing a person who works from home makes it impossible for you to drop in on them and vice versa to ask quick questions, obtain updates, and make the aforementioned small talk. Taking this into account it quickly becomes very reasonable to make a standing regular appointment for catching up on small things that might not be germane to a full team meeting. Obviously, a video call would be ideal when convenient.

Plan In-Person Visits

Schedule your remote team members to visit the office when they are in town. If they aren’t likely to come to town, bring them in from time to time for the good of your working relationship. Having complete team buy-in is a valuable asset and will generally be worth the effort of bringing the whole team together to interact and make deeper personal connections.

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