Modern technology has ushered in a bold, new era in terms of employee productivity. Case in point: thanks to not only cloud computing but mobile technology, almost ANY employee can become a remote worker if they truly desire. Employees can be just as productive at a coffee shop as they could from their desk in the office, which has meant big things for businesses in all industries. For the people tasked with actually managing these remote employees, however, it can quickly become a challenge, to say the least.
If you want to get better at managing employees who are working remotely and your goal is to bring your team together even when they’re a world apart, you’ll want to keep a few key things in mind.
Lay Down the Ground Rules
Some employees who are working remotely tend to have this romantic idea that they are their own boss or that they "work for themselves." After all, they don’t have to go into the office to be productive – they can work with the TV on if they want to or decide to stay in their pajamas all day if they feel like it, right?
Wrong. In reality, even remote employees still have a very real boss – the work itself. This is the master they’re trying to serve, and while they do have an extra level of comfort that on-site employees might not, any decision that takes away from the quality of the work is one that has to go.
Establishing a firm set of ground rules for all employees who are working remotely is essential to getting everyone on the same page. Whether it’s the fact that they have to work at least X number of hours per day. or that they have to be available between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., or even a rule saying that you’ll have at least one video conference per day, rules are important to not only keep everyone focused but also to make sure you’re all working towards the same long-term goal.
It’s All About Perspective
Above all else, it’s important for you and your employees to start looking at working remotely as a privilege, not a right. Just because the technology exists and is more affordable than ever does NOT mean it is something that they are entitled to. If a top-quality employee who previously worked on-site switches to remote access and the quality of the work suffers, you have to see the situation for what it is: someone who is abusing that privilege. If that situation arises, it’s time to not only bring them back into the office (if possible) but make sure that all other employees know that the same thing can happen to them in the future.
The type of work that you’re doing cannot exist in a vacuum, yet this is exactly what you’re creating if you don’t encourage or even insist that remote workers still communicate and collaborate with one another. Even if it’s something as simple as a quick daily phone call, it’s hugely important for remote workers to understand that what they’re doing affects everyone else at the same time. It’s far too easy for someone who doesn’t go into the office to start thinking "out of sight, out of mind" in terms of their fellow employees. Encouraging regular communication can help prevent this from happening.
Working remotely for a business is a truly great thing, but the opposite can certainly be true if you’re not careful. Only by establishing ground rules, holding people accountable, and by having the right perspective will you be able to unlock all of the benefits of remote workers with as few of the downsides as possible.