Six Tips to Ensure Your Remote Workers are Focused and Productive

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.

Black and White Clock

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.

Work from home

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.’

Empty Office Desk

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.

Jogging on the beach

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.

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