Cutting-edge devices, communication technologies and collaborative tools have fostered a modern workplace culture where staffers can tackle their jobs from virtually anywhere their professional (and/or personal) lives lead. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted, according to the most recent Gallup data. In addition, a staggering 79% of knowledge workers worldwide now work outside the office, and moreover, 60% would leave their existing job for a similar position offering the same wages if their new employer granted the flexibility to work from home full-time, according to a 2015 survey conducted by conferencing and collaboration solutions developer PGi.
While the growth of the telecommuter economy is boosting employee morale and reducing operational costs, it’s also creating a new set of challenges and complexities for IT leaders tasked with keeping remote employees connected and productive. But savvy business owners and IT managers can leverage a range of remote management solutions and strategies to resolve issues quickly, maximize efficiency and keep staffers (and bosses) satisfied, including:
Connection speed and reliability are essential to communication both inside and outside the workplace, so partnering with a service provider you can depend on is the first step to successfully supporting remote staffers. Of course, even the most dependable web connection is no good without mobile computing devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets tied to the network. Businesses with remote staffers should implement clear and sensible bring-your-own-device policies, giving employees the freedom to work on their preferred device while simultaneously cutting overhead costs.
Email remains an essential tool for interacting with colleagues and clients alike, but companies should also adopt free instant messaging and videoconferencing tools like Skype and Google Hangouts to support face-to-face, real-time dialogue. No less essential are cloud computing tools to access, edit and store network data. In addition, there are a myriad of virtual project management and collaboration tools enabling remote team members to contribute ideas and insights while also helping managers assign tasks and monitor progress.
Working from home does not make employees exempt from conventional office checks and balances. Define clear hours when remote workers must be available, keeping in mind obvious differences in time zones and other variables. Set up reporting and communication channels to ensure smooth collaboration, supervision and troubleshooting, and identify which platforms are most effective for making contact according to the situation at hand.
Set clear expectations for employee productivity and growth, defining both micro-level and macro-level goals as well as long-term deliverables in exacting detail to minimize the potential for miscommunication. Keep in mind that remote workers have few opportunities to measure their performance against their colleagues’ efforts, so take steps to communicate how and where they’re succeeding or failing, and offer tips, tools and resources to help them improve. And when remote staffers go above and beyond the call of duty, be sure to reward their efforts, even if it’s just a complimentary email or a conference call shout-out.
Remote work is not for everyone. Presumably you’re granting this freedom and flexibility to only your most qualified, self-motivated staffers, so trust them to get the job done. Build mutually healthy, respectful relationships that allow remote employees to flourish outside of the traditional workplace environment, and resist the urge to micromanage.
Remote work is the future of American business. Either accept and address this new reality, or acknowledge that your chances of landing and keeping the most talented, driven employees are… well, remote.