Every single year, more and more United States workers gain the flexibility to work remotely. Whether that’s in a hotel lobby, airport, home office, or coffee shop, telecommuting has become increasingly popular, and also necessary.
A recent study by Gallup, a business consulting firm that offers a wide array of services, found that over 37% of U.S. workers have worked remotely, a large jump from the 9% found in 1995. The study concludes that there are two major forms of telecommuting: work remotely during normal business hours, and working outside of the office during evenings or weekends.
No matter what hours your remote employees are logging, the ability to work just as productively and as seamlessly as they would normally in the traditional office is ever important. With over 30 million Americans working at least one day from home per week, organizations are seeking strategies to provide support incentives, tools, and successfully manage a mobile workforce.
Here are 5 ways to keep your remote (and traditional) employees engaged, productive, and happy.1. Encourage and Be Flexible with Allowances
Many remote employees begin to do so due to the demands of their current role. Salespeople, consultants, developers, and customer service representatives may be more productive a day or two outside of office distractions. A recent blog by Forbes suggests offering allowances and incentives to work from home on occasion, making the overall organizational transition more fluid. The blog details the costs accrued by remote workers over time, and how to limit those costs for your employees. This allowance is intended to support the employee in setting up an “office environment”, with things like internet, mobile data, and cell phone plans. The more frequent the employee will be required to work from home, consider increasing the monthly budget.2. Identify Roles and Responsibilities. Stop Micromanaging.
Regardless of whether your employees are logging in from their kitchen table or their cubicle, your team needs to have a good understanding of what is expected of them during the day. Micromanagement has been a tactic of many traditional offices, with the hope that the “all eyes on you” mentality will keep your employees from surfing the web all day. In a blog about Why People Micromanage, Ron Ashkenas, a managing partner of Schaeffer Consulting, says:
“However, at higher levels managers usually need to dial down their operational focus and learn how to be more strategic. To do so, managers have to trust their people to manage day-to-day operations and coach them as needed, rather than trying to do it for them.”
In a remote setting, managing at a microscopic view is more difficult, and can be incredibly stressful on the employee, causing them to become less productive, and decrease their quality of work. I know, because I’ve dealt with this in previous jobs...
Managers can avoid this by setting clear expectations on what each employee is responsible for during the workday, how much time should be allocated to it, and what key performance indicators (KPIs) they’re being measured on.3. Equip Employees with Technology and Education
It may seem like a no-brainer, but many organizations struggle to adapt to the rapidly changing work environment. The result leaves many remote employees without the tools they need to do their best work.
What kind of tools would they need other than email, you ask? Two words: Collaboration Software.
Many roles require employees to co-author documents with other employees in the organization. Typically, this has been accomplished by one employee creating a draft, emailing the word document to their coworker, coworker editing and making changes (and not always making it clear WHAT they changed), then emailing the new copy back over to the other employee. That’s a lot of steps when you type it all out like that! By finding a software that can bring your remote and in-house employees together, enable simultaneous editing, and produce real-time changes, your team will be turning out documents faster and with more accuracy than they ever have before. Even if it is from their kitchen table.
Further enable your employees by putting a learning and adoption plan in place, maximizing the benefits of your investment.4. Forgo the Always Physical Meeting
Instead, try going virtual. Virtual meetings offer the same benefits of traditional meetings, and then some. Many virtual meeting tools offer screen-sharing capabilities, allowing your employees to keep team members up to speed on projects, ideas, and development. Many of these tools also offer video-conferencing, with both audio and visual capabilities, bringing together the united feeling of a physical meeting. Virtual meetings, unlike physical meetings, allow your employees to join from any location with internet access and limit the need for time management. This allows your employees to get right back on with their day, instead of planning to go from one place to the next.5. Utilize Dashboards and Key Performance Indicators
With potentially 30% of your staff working outside of the office at any given time, it’s important to stay on top of employee/organizational performance. The use of key performance indicators (KPIs) as mentioned earlier, is the most effective way to gain a company or department “snapshot” in real-time.
Making your KPI dashboards available from a web browser, you’ll ensure all of your employees have access to the more current data, regardless of their location.
By aligning business strategy with technology, you company will be well on its way to supporting happy, productive, and empowered employees.