More and more individuals are giving up the conventional 9-5 in an office setting, making the shift toward working from home as telecommuters or as independent contractors (freelancers). The most recent Census Bureau data supports this claim, reporting that just under 13.4 million people worked, at least, one day at home each week throughout 2013. That represents a 35% increase over the last decade!
Remote work has steadily increased in popularity due to the ever-advancing technology available not only to hiring organizations but to employees and freelancers as well. Working from home has clear benefits, including its potential to reduce costs to the company, and its ability to promote a positive balance between work and personal life among employees. But, offering more autonomous work conditions presents challenges to management not often found when employees or contractors are on-site every day.
To help manage your remote employees or freelance talent without taking away from the benefits remote work offers, here are 4 tips to live by.
1. Find and Utilize the Right Tools
Off-site work is becoming easier for companies of all sizes because of advances in technology and the tools now available to businesses. Just about anything you could dream of is available via the Internet – messaging applications, editorial calendars, collaboration tools and task managers are all out there, waiting to be used by your company and remote workforce. While technology can be the best asset your business has in managing a remote team of employees or freelancers, it does little good if the right tools aren’t being used.
Online applications are not all created equal, so it may take some trial and error to get to the right mix of tools necessary to keep work flowing and your remote workforce satisfied. Ask other managers or business owners which tools they prefer for certain types of work, and which may be worth skipping. It is also necessary to provide tools that help your remote workers feel included and valued. For instance, integrating an intuitive payroll tool to assist in managing hours worked and tracking total compensation paid allows your remote workforce to get the pay information they need or want while freeing you up for managing other tasks or assignments. This is just one example of how online tools help you successfully manage employees and freelancers, regardless of where the work is done.
2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
A common complaint among freelance and remote workers and the people who manage them is the lack of communication that takes place. Consistent, open and honest communication is key to the success of any team or company, but that is more easily accomplished in an office setting than it is when employees are working off-site.
To ensure the lines of communication are kept open between management, team leads and freelance or remote workers, need to make it a priority to have an open door policy and share that with their off-site teams. You can hold office hours each day or week when you are available for a phone call or chat to discuss tasks and assignments. You may also need to schedule regular check-ins with remote workers on a daily or weekly basis. Make an effort to be available for any questions that may arise about a project, deadline or other issues consistently, and share that availability with your remote workforce.
3. Offer Face-to- Face Opportunities
Having an in-person discussion with an employee is easier said than done when telecommuting. But, face-to-face meetings are an excellent way to connect with employees and contractors, get updates on projects due and get an overall satisfaction check from the field.
Creating face-time opportunities can be as simple as scheduling a one-on- one or group video conference each week or month, or inviting remote workers in to the office for staff meetings or scheduled performance reviews. Whatever the method of face-to- face meetings, they are necessary to sustain a connected – and motivated – remote team.
4. Be Clear on Expected Outcomes
While some employees thrive in a remote setting, others find it challenging to maintain the same level of organization and time management they would otherwise have in a traditional office setting. To ensure your remote workers and freelancers are getting the job done, it is necessary to find a balance between micro-managing and letting them work autonomously. An easy way to achieve that balance is to provide clear guidelines for task deadlines, scope of work, quality of work and intended results from the work. Each of these factors play a role in the long-term success of remote workers and freelancers, and assist in maintaining an organized, sustainable system of management.
Remote work can lead to a more cost-effective, productive organization, but only when the right management structure is in place. Integrating the right tools and keeping the lines of communication open are key to remote worker success, as are creating face-to- face opportunities and providing clear direction on the work to be performed. Implementing these tips lays the necessary groundwork for a strong, reliable and productive remote workforce.
Have you ever managed a remote workforce? Was it successful? Your thoughts and comments below please...