How To Manage, Engage Remote Workers

Working remotely is no longer a thing of the future. It is here and now in full effect. According to a recent study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), nearly 50 percent of the American workforce do their jobs remotely at least some of the time.

By 2020, it is forecasted that the majority of the American workforce will work remotely as this style of work becomes increasingly common. Working remotely definitely has its advantages such as recruiting and retaining top talent on a global scale, increasing productivity while lowering overhead costs, and providing the much coveted work life balance to employees. Being able to choose where and when to work empowers employees to become more productive, engaged and balanced in all aspects of their lives. However, it also carries some potential disadvantages most commonly in the areas of collaboration and communication.

As someone who has worked remotely for the past handful of years, I can definitely confirm that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. In fact, when employees get the opportunity to enjoy a more flexible style of work, they typically want to stick with it for the duration of their career. However, employers can prevent most of the drawbacks related to working remotely with some thoughtful planning and execution. The remote working phenomenon is here to stay, and it offers an interesting opportunity for employers. Managing and engaging remote employees is still a big challenge for many leaders. Here are some tips to ensure you’re positioning your organization and employee for success through a remote work arrangement.

¯ Communicate in the moment. Thanks to technology, it is simple for employees to communicate in real-time, just as if they were sharing neighboring cubicles. A successful remote working arrangement can only happen if communication is seamless and free flowing. Whether you are managing employees who work in the office or at a remote location, nothing will kill productivity and trust more quickly than a lack of communication. Make sure you invest in a communication platform such as Google for Work, or Skype for Business, that enables employees to connect with you and each other at a moment’s notice. As I reflect upon my own remote work arrangements that didn’t go smoothly, much of it was due to feeling left out of the loop regarding important communication that wasn’t conveyed to remote workers on a timely basis, but rather as an after thought.

¯ Set a meeting schedule and stick to it. While real-time communication is critical, it is also important to honor a set weekly or bi-weekly meeting schedule to discuss updates and business matters in more depth. Similar to a traditional work arrangement where employees are within the same four walls as the employer, managers who don’t bother making time for one-on-one conversation with their employees set an unsupportive and non-caring tone. When this happens, employees trust their managers less, resulting in lower engagement and declining productivity. This is even more rapidly prevalent with remote employees who are physically disconnected. Making it a priority to create and stick to a regular meeting schedule with your remote employees will ensure everyone is on the same page and working toward a common goal. This will prevent frustration, resentment, and possible turnover in the long run.

¯ Treat your remote employees as if they were in your office. Make sure your remote workers have as much access to you as humanly possible.

Since your remote employees don’t get the advantage of passing you in the hallway, stopping by your office, or chatting over coffee, they can feel distant. Make sure you respond to their emails, calls, or text messages quickly and don’t forget to encourage them to feel comfortable doing so outside of your scheduled meeting times together.

¯ Make sure you have the right infrastructure for collaboration. As a remote employee, few things are more frustrating than having your work stalled by an inability to download a file, or struggle to hear important conversation on a conference call using shoddy technology. Make sure you have the right tools in place to enable your remote employee to do their job with minimal frustration.

The explosion of remote work has redefined the workplace and how we live our lives. If you want to attract the best talent and enjoy higher productivity with lower overhead, it’s time to equip yourself with the resources to ensure a successful remote working arrangement.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 20 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, aeronautical engineering, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at changeagentsee@gmail.com.

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