Guide to Managing Telecommuters
Telecommuting is a growing option in various industries because of its many benefits for employees and employers, including increased morale, flexibility and productivity. If implemented correctly with good leadership and management, telecommuting can help both your company and your staff thrive.
However, telecommuting also introduces some unique issues, such as worker apathy, distraction, disconnect and a lack of feeling included in the business. For these reasons, it is vital to stay in constant contact with your employees, whether they are in-office or working from home. Follow the suggestions in this guide to learn how to effectively manage and motivate your employees for optimum performance and productivity.
Manage and Motivate Telecommuters
One of the biggest difficulties in hiring and managing telecommuters is keeping them involved and motivated. These tips will help you manage and motivate a team of telecommuters:
- Focus on the work your telecommuter has completed and their overall productivity, not how many hours they’ve logged. Part of the benefit of telecommuting is allowing employees to work how and when they are most productive. By focusing on outcomes and results, you encourage workers to operate when they are the most efficient.
- Give workers plenty of recognition and regular updates. It is hard to convey your thoughts about their work and the goings-on in the office when the workers aren’t present. Sending daily emails or having a daily conference call can help keep telecommuters in the know.
- Keep a set of rules, and reinforce them often. These rules should concern meetings, work output, professionalism, commitment and communication; it should also be clear how these rules are measured. A Telecommuting Policy can help you outline and communicate these guidelines with your telecommuters.
- Make clear demands and requests of your remote workers, and avoid any assumptions, especially in emails. Emails are often difficult to understand, and sometimes, meaning can be lost. Keep your tone neutral and forthright—this means no sarcasm or jokes, particularly if you don’t know this telecommuter personally. If you speak indirectly or generally, the worker may misinterpret their orders. Try to be forthright and descriptive to avoid any misunderstandings. Encourage the telecommuter to ask questions when things aren’t clear.
- Articulate your expectations of their work and performance. Telecommuters need to remember that they have a manager who has given them clear directives. It’s important to lay out exactly what you want the telecommuter to do before they begin working, and in some cases, it may be wise to enter a Telecommuting Agreement. This will help you clarify the worker’s duties and obligations, which can help keep them accountable for their responsibilities.
- Keep emails short to avoid misunderstandings, and try to only cover one topic or project in one email. If you have another topic to discuss, cover it in a different email message. By covering different topics in separate emails, you make it easy for workers to organize their tasks and keep your important messages from getting lost in a long list of overwhelming information.
- Offer training and professional development regularly for your remote workers. This includes webinars and/or courses online or in person. These can be hosted by you or others, and they ensure that workers are included in company development and have the tools they need to succeed.
More Best Practices
Consider these other best practices for checking in with your telecommuters and keeping up productivity:
- Have regular meetings or web conferences. These can be held in your office once a month or as regularly as possible. Try to have at least one face-to-face meeting with everyone, which may require using video teleconferencing tools (see section below) if workers aren’t close enough to travel to the office.
- Give regular recognition. Give goals and recognition to workers in group emails with all employees included, and communicate positives often.
- Encourage employees to meet up and collaborate if they live near each other. This will help foster relationships between employees and make them feel more connected to each other and the company.
- Get to know everyone, and let them get to know each other by having everyone provide short bios on themselves and then encouraging workers to add one another on LinkedIn or other social media.
- Provide incentives. This includes giving immediate feedback, cash bonuses for achieving goals and handwritten notes from the boss or CEO.
- Make sure that remote workers have an opportunity for growth, including raises and promotions, and are aware of their ability to move up in the company.
- Have clear deadlines, and focus on meeting those.
- Include both remote and in-house employees on all emails, meetings, updates and rewards. Just because they aren’t present doesn’t mean they aren’t equally part of the company.
- Host team-building events face-to-face; if workers aren’t nearby, you can use an application like Skype. If you have the funds, you can also consider sponsoring a business retreat where workers can collaborate and bond in person.
- Offer to write a letter of recommendation for your strongest telecommuters. People often feel this is reserved for in-person employees, but the reality is that explaining that the telecommuter did an amazing job and was easy to manage in spite of the distance can be a very valuable asset for that worker down the line.
For successful telecommuting, employees need to be given the opportunity to communicate with you and each other. Effective online workers need shared spaces, calendars and resources. These recommended web applications can help you with collaboration and meetings:
- Skype: This popular video-conferencing app is great for making calls and texts over the internet. The software allows you to host meetings or work together on projects, making it easy to brainstorm with everyone at once with shared audio and video.
- GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting gives you the ability to host online meetings with up to 25 people, using video and audio conferencing on almost any device. The company also offers webinar and training services with screen-sharing capabilities.
- MS NetMeeting: Microsoft’s video-conferencing solution also provides users with a shareable whiteboard for brainstorming and collaborating. There are also text chat and file-transfer capabilities.
- Dropbox: Dropbox is best for file sharing in the cloud with your remote workers. You and employees can collaborate and share documents and files, with the ability to access files offline.
- Google Apps: Google Apps for Business includes the suite of Gmail and Drive (which includes Calendar, Doc, Slides and Sheets). All of these different services can be used for collaboration on different projects and shared with other users. Google also has Google Hangouts, which can be used for virtual video meetings.
- Evernote Business: This is a great service for connecting employees and enhancing productivity. Evernote lets users share files, make comments and collaborate on projects. There are also presentation software and shared notebooks. All of these features can be accessed both online and off.