Whether it is a few employees or your entire workforce, it is becoming more and more likely that if you have employees, you are facing the challenge of managing remote workers. In fact, between 2005 and 2012, the number of remote workers in the U.S. grew by almost 80 percent. In 2014, 10 percent of all employees worked remotely. Organizations from Automattic to the U.S. government have found that allowing employees to telecommute, when done correctly, can increase employee productivity and satisfaction, reduce costs for the company, reduce employee turnover and allow access to a larger talent pool. Conversely, other companies like Yahoo! and Reddit disallow remote work, claiming that the speed and quality of work suffered when employees were not in the office. So when faced with the prospect of remote employees, how do you reap the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls? The following are tools and tips to arm your remote employees for success.
Equip Your Team with Tools For Success
Hardware: The first step in building a successful remote team is arming them with the necessary tools, and this starts with the hardware. Every employee should be equipped with high speed Internet access, a smartphone and, most importantly, a laptop. Choose a laptop with the needs of a mobile worker in mind. For example, Lenovo laptops are lightweight and durable, yet also feature the powerful processing necessary to replace a desktop.
Project management: Easy communication is essential for workers who don’t have the luxury of bumping into each other in the hallway, so you must have a central project management tool. Basecamp is one of the oldest and can be used to monitor project discussions, assign tasks, access documents and schedule work. Other good options include Asana and Bitrix 24.
Chat software: Many remote teams find it essential to have an open forum to chat, whether about specific tasks or just for personal interactions. Zapier, a web development company where every employee is remote, uses the group chat software Slack as their virtual office.
Video conferencing: Video meetings should be a common tool employed by remote teams. Video allows for a more personal interaction and the immediate follow-up/clarification that often gets lost in written communication. For up to ten people, Google Hangouts or Skype work great. For larger groups, GoToMeeting is a reliable video conferencing tool.
Time tracking: Accountability is another essential element in remote management. Toggl is an app that will allow employees to record their work activities and then share with a manager or team. WhenIWork allows employers to track employees time, schedule and location, which may be necessary for freelancers or employees who travel.
Manage Remote Employees: Build a Remote Community
Companies that have success with remote teams have found that arming them with technology is not enough, they must also be intentional in building community among their employees. Here are a few examples of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activities that can create a collaborative culture, enhance communication and encourage accountability among team members.
Daily morning chats: Using your chat forum, start every morning with a casual chat. This may range from asking about employees’ personal hobbies to talking about the tasks of the day. Checking in every morning replicates what happens in an office and encourages camaraderie.
Weekly video meetings: Every week, schedule a video meeting with your team. This allows for much needed verbal and non-verbal communication.
Monthly one-on-one: Schedule a one-on-one between each employee and their manager, which will foster accountability and allow for review and redirection.
Yearly meet-ups: Every year, plan a retreat for the entire team. This once-a-year, in-person meet-up will build rapport that will translate into better remote communication between employees.
Does your organization have remote employees?
What trends are you seeing with others who successfully manage remote employees? Share in the comments below.