As we’ve discussed previously, remote workers and work-from-home arrangements are becoming the norm for many businesses these days, and although some employers are still skeptical about the efficiency of having people work outside of the traditional office, remote workers are here to stay. Due to the fact that you can easily hire a specialist remote worker at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time in-house employee, as well as hiring remote freelancers on a need-to-need basis, more employers are taking the plunge. If you’re new to hiring remote workers, Mikogo has you covered. Follow our tips below to find out how businesses are managing and keeping remote workers productive and focused.
Step 1: Set Clear Deadlines
It is easy to get the lines blurred when you work with a remote worker. On the one hand, they are an integral part of your operation and you want things done according to your timetable, but on the other hand, you’re not paying them a set salary (unless they work for you full-time) and therefore, you can’t really make the same demands on their time as you can with an in-house employee. It can be awkward and some first-time remote team managers make the mistake of expecting their remote workers to be available 40 hours a week like an in-house employee, which is why it is important for you to discuss deadlines from the outset.
Transparent communication of your expectations is an integral part of remote working success. Ideally, you should do this live (in person) or via a web conference, as email communications can easily be misinterpreted. However, you should follow it up with an email, to the effect of “as we discussed…” followed by the terms of the deadline.
I recommend you provide specific project- or task instructions well ahead of time, and ask the remote worker whether he or she will be able to complete it by a certain date. Budget your time so that you can receive the work a day or two before the actual deadline to ensure that you have time to deal with any changes and addendums.
Due to many reasons, not all working relationships last as long as you first thought. The benefit of hiring remotely is that there are many alternative freelancers just a few clicks away. Unless you hear from your remote worker within a reasonable time-frame – but still well ahead of the deadline – feel free to follow up. If the remote worker is unable to complete the work for whatever reason, this should give you sufficient time to find someone else to complete the task.
Step 2: Create a Schedule
One of the keys to success with remote workers is hiring the right people. When allowing employees to work from home or when hiring remote freelancers, it’s important that they have the discipline and self-motivation to meet their deadlines. Creating a weekly or monthly schedule of tasks to be completed can assist greatly here.
Ideally the remote worker should create their own schedule which you can later provide feedback on. However when dealing with a new remote worker for the first time, you may need to build their first schedule to guide them and get them on the right track. Try creating a scheduling template to save yourself time in the future with other remote workers.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time vs. As-and-When Remote Worker: a schedule is important with part time remote workers who work a few hours every day, or full time. Regardless of the number of hours they work, if a worker has set tasks which they must do on a regular basis, a schedule will ensure the work is completed on time. On the other hand, when dealing with as-and-when remote freelancers, you’ll find that a schedule is not required as much and instead setting clear deadlines will ensure their work gets done on time.
You can also ask the remote worker to create a schedule and share it with you via an online file hosting service (e.g. Dropbox), which makes it easy for you to keep track of their schedules and add input.
Step 3: Connect With Your Remote Workers
Instead of always simply checking up on your remote workers, setting deadlines and so on, spend a little time connecting with them. Ask whether they need anything from you to make their work easier or to complete a project, or find a way to connect on a more personal level.
In the absence of birthday lunches, office parties and meetings, consider sending a nice “thank you” email once in a while for their work and contribution to the team’s projects. You can also introduce multiple remote workers to each other as well as your in-house employees, and encourage them to contact each other about the work – this is all part of building a virtual team atmosphere.
It is a very small part of your week and is time well spent, as it can help the remote worker feel more a part of the team, which in turn boosts their productivity.
Step 4: Give Recognition When It’s Due
Like all workers, remote workers thrive on recognition. Since you may be on two completely different continents, your remote workers don’t have the pleasure of seeing the satisfaction on your face for a job well done. They don’t get high-fives when their efforts result in profits, new business acquisition, or other company achievements.
You have to tell your remote workers that you appreciate them, whether it is by a means of a phone call or a kind email congratulating them for a job well done. Whatever it takes, spend a couple of minutes to reach out and acknowledge the hard work of your remote workers.
Step 5: Encourage Breaks
This applies to every person working in an office and not only remote workers, but differs slightly when managing people remotely. If you spend extended hours in front of your computer, you’re advised to take regular short breaks which can help your mind and body to relax and recover.
Research shows that:
- Sitting makes you fat. Studies have shown that obese people sit 2.5 hours more per day than thin people.
- Sitting increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- A microbreak (30 seconds – 5 min) improves mental acuity by 13%
- Regular breaks of just 2 minutes increase productivity by 11.15%
When managing people in the office, you have the benefit of checking in on your workers. However with remote workers you need to make a small effort via email or during a meeting online to encourage them to move from their desk occasionally. The last thing you need is for your favorite remote worker to lose motivation due to a sore back or eyes.
Organizational Psychologist, Dr. Michael Woodward, PhD, encourages us to take a proper lunch break each day rather than sit at our desks and shovel food down our throats: ‘we all need the energy from calories for our minds to function at their best. And we all need a little time to recharge, too.’
Bupa Health recommends you encourage your workers to take a 5-10 minute break if possible every hour. Just going to make a coffee or eat a snack can do wonders for keeping your remote workers productive. If your remote workers are in a co-working space, just talking to a co-worker for a few minutes can help. Also, stretching will re-activate electrical activity in the legs, and help the mind to re-focus.
Of course you cannot be expected to keep track of everything your remote workers do or how many times they move from their desk. The message here is that if you think your remote workers are always online and in front of their computer, it will pay to have a word with them and ask them to fit in a little rest every now and then.
Step 6: Encourage Energy Boosters
No, I’m not talking about unhealthy pharmaceutical stimulants. Instead, encourage your remote workers to boost their energy levels by fitting in daily exercise, an action which is also encouraged by Dashable, other proponents of remote work. Some companies offer gym memberships or other exercise programs, however remote workers do not receive these benefits. Encourage their interests in exercise or sports, such as a 15 minute walk during the workday, or a few quick yoga stretches, going for a run after work, or, if they live in a good climate, a quick dip in the pool. You can even encourage them to eat healthy snacks, because many people who spend time at the PC, tend to eat all the wrong foods.
Managing your energy levels is more valuable to productivity than managing time. Trying to manage a busy schedule when you’re running on precious little energy will result in poor quality work. Therefore, as a manager, it is in your interest to support your remote workers in whatever they may need to boost their energy.
Mental energy is arguably even more important than physical energy, so encourage your remote workers to participate in group dynamics by hooking up with one another on the company’s online forums. Some people work well on their own, but others crave group dynamics and connecting with others online is a great way to fulfill that need.
If your employee is a newbie remote worker, it would be a good idea to provide some encouragement and training. For instance, share this article, which provides great insights into how they can become more effective at working from home.
Discussion: Do you have any more tips for working with remote workers? We’d love to hear about it in comments below.