4 Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce

The ability to work remotely is often perceived as a valuable perk to employees afforded this benefit. With less distraction, time and money commute savings and a dress code to match your mood of the day, the remote workforce finds plenty to value. The benefits are mutual! Employers experience less overhead and turnover with greater productivity and employee engagement. The rising statistics of those actually working from home prove the benefit is mutual. In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 23% of employees do at least part of their work remotely and an article from The New York Times reports that telecommuting has risen 79 percent between 2005 and 2012.

Managing a mobile workforce is fundamentally different from managing employees in a traditional office setting. Moving forward, the onus is on businesses to adapt to a mobile workforce or fall behind competitors. A large part of this will be preparing managers about managing a mobile workforce. Here are 4 tips for managers that have remote employees on their team.

  1. Clearly define deliverables. Explain the remote employee’s goals and objectives including dates by which they should be met. What do you expect from this employee every day, week or month? In order to determine if the job is being done successfully in a remote location, both the employee and the manager need to clearly understand what is being asked of the employee.
  2. Set expectations. What do you require as far as availability and response time from your remote employee? Typically, those trusted enough to work remotely have proven themselves driven and able to accomplish their objectives with little supervision, but may have done so in flexible hours. Is the employee able to work their required number of hours at whatever time of day they please or do you prefer they are available during regular business hours? Is this employee expected to reply to all business communications within a certain time frame? These are all expectations that should be clearly defined from the get go. If the employee does not meet these expectations, remember to record the details and discuss them with the employee. If expectations are not met regularly, perhaps a remote work situation is not ideal for them.
  3. Understand the challenges. Appreciate that the remote employee’s challenges may look different than that of an employee in a traditional office setting. No longer are they tempted by the distraction of office gossip or annoyed by the employee in the next cubicle playing music too loudly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns that may interfere with their work.
  4. Communicate regularly. Good communication is the base of any good manager-employee relationship and it’s no different when your employee is remote. Schedule regular meetings, whether daily, weekly or bi-weekly, with your remote employees and keep them. Utilize the wealth of technological tools out there to communicate face-to-face as often as possible. This will keep employees engaged and during group meetings will reinforce their contributions to the team.

Working remote can be of great value to both an employee and the employer when expectations are set and met, and employees are engaged and fulfilled. A telecommuting agreement outlining the points above is helpful to keep both manager and employee on track for success.

Tandem HR is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) in the Chicagoland area that assists hundreds of small and mid-sized businesses with creating exceptional workplaces within a continually changing society. They also help clients save time and money while growing their business by taking on the administrative tasks associated with human resources, benefits, payroll, tax administration, regulatory compliance and risk management.

For more information on Tandem HR or PEOs, visit TandemHR.com or call 630.928.0510.