In the current environment, employers who are willing to hire freelancers, home-based workers and telecommuters have an edge. It lets them hire top talent for reasonable pay because so many people are determined to enjoy the perks that come from working remotely.
But a whitepaper put out by Microsoft and quoted by Forbes points out that, “Business leaders assume employees who work remotely and take advantage of the policy are not really working. This is because of a loss of control.”
Working remotely is the future and it’s here now. To make it work, the trick is hire workers you trust and then to support them with everything they need to do the job efficiently. Here is a look at how you can lead your team wherever they are.
Communication Is Key
Whether you are working with agents, a project team or work-from-home freelancers, you need reliable methods of staying in touch. And technology is your friend.
Your remote workers need a laptop with Wi-Fi ability, reliable access to the internet, a secure way to log on to your internal network, a phone and messaging systems that can include voicemail, email, texting and chat.
It seems like a lot, but if you have a steady stream of instructions and regular deadlines, you will get into trouble quickly without multiple channels for communicating.
Decide on a company policy for paying for equipment that many freelancers can’t afford. It is an investment in clear communication and meeting goals.
The maxim of company newsletters for decades has been to get every employee’s name in print at least once in the year, as a way to acknowledge them and give them a sense of pride. Companies, both big and small, still need to make each worker feel important.
New ways of accomplishing this are a blog aimed at employee events and discussion boards to connect and compare notes. In lieu of a company picnic, set up an annual Twitter party. All of these make the remote worker feel a part of the business. It also serves to keep them in the loop so they know what to expect.
A FAQ or wiki just for workers is essential. This gives them access to all types of administrative information like guides, deadlines and calendars.
The faceless user of the internet is a thing of the past. Workers want to know who they are reporting to, what they look like and sound like. Technology like videoconferencing using Skype and Google Hangouts makes this possible.
Face-to-face interactions can clear up confusion about instructions, get everyone on the same page regarding goals and project strategy and create a team spirit.
The value of these meetings is that you can convey far more than an email ever can by the tone of your voice, your expressions and body language. These are the basics of good communication.
Be prepared for all your online meetings with staff. Have all the material ready, send checklists and resources to staff ahead of time and keep to the schedule. Follow up your meeting with a recap of what was covered and list the tasks that are expected of each staff member.
Always Have a Plan B
Your remote workers are subject to the same disruptions as you experience when you work outside the office. Factor this into your deadlines. Be clear what to do when problems occur.
The worst, and most common, problem is losing internet access, usually due to storms. Computer failures can also wreak havoc. Make it clear that it is their responsibility to back up their files daily. Offer them access to an automatic backup service to make it easier.
Be Clear About Money
People work because they need money to pay bills and plan for the future. That’s why you’re in business too. Never assume that a remote worker is clear about financial aspects of your business. Spell everything out.
Set aside a secure place on your website that makes clear when he gets paid, how he gets paid and exactly what determines his earnings. Consider the fact that if he worked in your office, he could simply walk down to accounting or HR and ask his question. That’s not possible when you work remotely.
Approaching you as the owner or as his manager may be intimidating. Don’t make it difficult for him to discover any and all financial related information that affects his work life. The result will be anger, frustration, badmouthing and leaving the company.
With planning and the right equipment, you and your workers can make a success of remote employment.