Home offices are becoming more and more popular, with several employees being allowed to work from home. Team leaders have now had to learn how to handle these remote workers appropriately. We've all heard the cons of long distance relationships--loneliness, uncertainty, lack of intimacy, insecurity, and loneliness--and these problems and the more difficult aspects of long distance relationships are similar to remote working environments.
However, this does not mean that remote workers cannot be useful and positively contribute to the workplace. Remote workers need to be managed by skilled, and knowledgeable managers. They need support from their organization and managers that are willing to learn new skills continually. If the employees are not willing to do what it takes to work in a remote office this is a moot point.
Why has there been a mass exodus from working an office environment to a remote office environment? The simplest explanation is that the increased availability of email and internet access to everyone means that the option of remote work became available to all. When internet speed increased, and collaboration tools became more widely available and used by all, remote work became even more popular. Now that mobile devices equipped with high-speed internet have become commonplace, workers are now able to be available at any hour and can respond to messages outside of their usual work hours.
It is a difficult challenge to manage remote workers, and it requires a manager who is willing to adapt to fast-paced changes. This article will outline an instructional guide on how to help remote workers perform the best they can in their situations.
Why Would You Hire Remote Workers?
To put it bluntly, remote workers are good for business. At the simplest level, companies will benefit from reduced costs and increased productivity from their workers. It can also be emotionally satisfying and sufficiently challenging for mature workers seeking to push their boundaries.
Several statistics point to the efficacy of remote workers. According to a Gallup Poll, 37% of workers have done remote work, which is a large increase from the 9% of workers who stated the same in 1995. Before, there was an average of 2.3 days of telecommuting each month, among every worker in their company. This number has increased to 6.4 days recently.
Companies also benefit from reduced costs due to less overhead and increase their productivity. Binfire recently found, in one of their surveys, that 29% of respondents "strongly disagreed" that remote workers were expensive to hire, and 17% of them "somewhat agreed," vs. 12% "strongly disagreed" with this statement.
Is It Less Expensive to Hire Remote Workers?
Remote workers are not only able to work longer while the office is close, but also do not require overtime pay. Most respondents (60%) of the Binfire Survey stated that they "strongly agreed" or "somewhat agreed" about this statement. Also, remote workers do not have to commute and are a lot more willing to work from home instead of taking leave while ill.
Are There Risks To Hiring Remote Workers?
The benefits are clear for hiring remote workers. However, this does not mean that it is appropriate for every business to hire remote workers. Learn the drawbacks to hiring remotely before you decide whether it will fit your business and any of your employees.
The risks you run into with hiring remote workers is that some employees don't have experience in working in such a role, so it will take some time for you to determine if it fits them. Although, not every job can be in a remote worker role.
Remote Worker Requirements
There are several risks to hiring remote workers: attitude, social needs, work experience, job role, and work ethic.
One of the worst things you can do is hire a worker who has no self-motivation or discipline. Their social needs and work ethic directly influence motivation. If a worker needs an active social environment, then going to a remote work environment could harm their productivity. They might not also work well when unsupervised and independent.
Another big issue is their experience. Don't ever take for granted that a worker can just jump into remote work. Understand the difference between hiring a remote worker and encouraging an employee to become a remote worker.
Also, not every job or role within your company can be a remote worker. Certain jobs need to be within a team setting. You should also, as a manager, make sure to keep your remote workers included within the group.
Keep Them Feeling Included
There are several different ways you can help your remote workers feel more included. First, you can hold video meetings with every worker, make sure to give them detailed instructions, and don't overwhelm them with emails.
Holding more meetings to include your remote workers can help decrease their stress levels. According to the International Labor Organization, 40% of remote workers suffer from severe stress, compared to 25% of their on-site worker counterparts. Managers taking the time to not only speak to them about work via video meetings but also their personal lives, can reduce stress and make the remote workers feel like they are part of the team.
Do Not Micromanage
When it comes to providing explicit instructions, managers should not micromanage. Instead, they should provide more detailed explanations to their remote workers. While the usual office workers can just go by the manager's office to clarify something, a remote worker has to instant message or call, which can be disruptive. Clear and consistent communication is what provides remote workers the best working relationship with their managers. You should set clear timelines and goals for remote workers to finish without hovering.
Remember: remote workers will only call or instant message when they need you, so do not wait a day to respond to them.
Do Not Overburden
Lastly, do not overburden remote workers with constant interruptions. If you do not communicate your goals with them enough, they will feel underappreciated and not trusted. If you are constantly calling them, they also will feel untrusted and micromanaged. Decide for the best methods and quantity of communication. Time Doctor has recommended that businesses use project management systems to help keep remote workers in the loop with what's going on in the main office instantly.
Remote workers are an asset to any business if utilized properly. Managers need to take the time to understand their needs so that they feel part of the company and the team as a whole and know that they are valuable to their coworkers.
Make Expectations Clear
Sources of stress from your employees may seem small and insignificant. Some employees can get stressed out just from seeing an IM bubble pop up and see their supervisor typing for what seems like a long time. Did they screw something up again? Is the supervisor angry at them? It doesn't matter if you are typing a simple "thank you" or shooting off a message for an instruction you forgot to tell that worker earlier.
This type of stress increases if communication between supervisors and employees drops, no matter the reason. Whether it's because the company is in trouble or the supervisor is going through something in their personal life, employees will sense the stress and react accordingly.
To combat this, especially if you notice a negative tone in emails and IMs, place emphasis on positive responses and reinforcement. While this is a simple concept, in clarifying expectations and establish rules for communication beforehand, it can be hard to execute. The many different management styles further complicate this there are, and employee preferences. The best way to combat this is to set clear, easy to understand expectations and follow through. Leave no room for uncertainty for anyone.
Acknowledge Every Contribution
It may be difficult to see and understand the contributions that remote workers make to their employer, but they should be acknowledged the same as on-site coworkers would. Any employee would find being ignored and not being recognized for their achievements to be demoralizing and stressful. Remote workers experience this two-fold because they are isolated from their co-workers and managers. Make sure to consider every aspect when providing recognition for any worker.
Remote Teams: The Bottom Line
There are a lot of negative and positive aspects of implementing remote workers, especially in a team setting. Take a hard look at your management style and make tweaks where appropriate to help your remote workers do the best work that they can, and help them face every challenge that comes their way.
About the Author
David Freudenberg is an American businessman and real estate investor located in Florida. He manages a team of 5 remote employees for his real estate investing company "David Buys Houses Florida." You may have recognized him from the popular slogan “We Buy Houses.” In his free time, he enjoys fishing, boating, working out, and traveling with friends.