Friday, June 27, 2014

Managing Remote Employees

A growing number of Americans are working from home. The increase in the use of contract employees is just adding to that rapidly increasing number in the U.S.  At last count, that amounted to some 3.3 million people working remotely (not including the self-employed), or 2.6% of the U.S. employee workforce. That number is expected to increase by 63% in the next five years. Given the rapid increase in contract employees that number could grow even larger.

With more companies allowing their employees to work remotely managers are increasingly tasked with overseeing workers scattered across cities, states, and time zones. Remote work has created an entirely new subset of employees, with their own habits and routines.

New technologies are making telecommuting more feasible and before too many years, the challenge of managing a team of remote workers might be the norm for many supervisors. With this increase in remote employees comes also the need to establish an understanding of how best to manage the people and the work. Below are a few recommendations.

1.       Making clear, reasonable expectations for their workday.

2.       Helping them develop habits that help them focus and achieve their goals.

3.       Developing a structure that supports their priorities.

4.       Help them develop boundaries with people, technology and other distractions. 

5.       High-quality communication is especially important with remote employees. Stay connected with them and available.

6.       Watch out for overwork. Employees working out of their homes can have a harder time setting boundaries between their work and personal lives. Some might prefer to work at 2 AM. Others might work until 10 or 11 at night. While others might like chunk work throughout the day. There is a danger for employees to overwork themselves and burn out. It's the boss's responsibility to guard against this and make sure employees take enough time for themselves. 

7.       Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins. At least once every few days managers should make time to check in with their remote workers. The goal is to maintain an open line of communication so that any potential issues get addressed and don't have a chance to pile up.

8.       Establish a culture of trust and respect. Trust, of course, is essential to all work environments. When you're working away from your colleagues, however, it becomes even more important.

Great managers of remote workers do everything that great managers of physical offices do, there's just a little more distance between the two.

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