The American workforce is changing the nature of “work” as we once knew it. The days when employees absolutely had to work at a desk, in an office, are long gone. While many businesses still insist on keeping their workforce on-site, more than 30 percent of Americans work remotely during some or most of the work-week.
It’s time for more companies to recognize that advances in technology have made it possible for employees to do their jobs—for the most part—anywhere in the world. These digital improvements are now at a point, notes Biz Tech, where “geography is—or, at least, can be—a nearly irrelevant factor in an employee’s work experience and productivity.”
This has also altered job-seekers’ expectations of flexibility in their employer’s approach as to how work gets done. Companies that fail to account for this shift in attitude may find it more difficult to recruit—and then adequately manage—their budding remote workforce.
Here are tips for managing your off-site, mobile team:
Understand what makes them tick. The most successful remote workers consider themselves self-starters. They have a clear idea of their job responsibilities, what’s expected of them, how they will get their tasks completed, and so on. They also expect to be given the most sophisticated tools and resources needed to meet their job responsibilities. Perhaps just as importantly, they want to feel good about the company they work for.
By getting to know these individuals and grasping their underlying motivations, “you’ll find that it is very easy to extract the best performance possible.”
Focus on communications. The most effective way to keep remote workers engaged is through focusing on consistent, high-quality communications. Establish a schedule that works for all involved but emphasizes ongoing contact (once or twice a week for updates, twice a month for in-depth reports, etc.).
Digital portals enable both the worker and his or her manager to see at a glance where projects stand, approaching deadlines and other pertinent information. Leverage such technology to ensure that key responsibilities are being met, but also to determine if off-site hurdles are preventing completion of tasks.
Be available. Let your mobile workers understand that you’re available to talk to (by whatever medium) at a short notice. And when you do speak with these individuals, give them your full attention. Treating them as less-than-full members of the team can negatively impact their motivation and ultimate performance. With today’s technology, you can always have a genuine interaction with your off-site staff.
Offer incentives just as you would with your onsite team. Remote workers respond just as favorably to rewards and other incentives as your in-house employees. Whether it’s formal recognition for a job well done—which also alerts everyone in the company of the high value you place on your mobile team—or providing gift certificates or other rewards, your remote workers will greatly appreciate that you took the time and effort to recognize their contributions.
Provide opportunities for professional development. If you currently provide tuition or otherwise sponsor professional development courses for your onsite workforce, there’s no reason to deny these opportunities to remote workers. They’ll benefit just as much from the chance to hone their skills and broaden the range of their expertise—and your business will benefit, too. Offering such opportunities keeps these people engaged with your business and less likely to turn elsewhere for employment.
Remote workers are increasingly becoming an essential facet of today’s workforce. To get the most from them, it’s important to manage their work with sensitivity and respect, while also ensuring they have what they need to achieve maximum productivity. Your business will be more successful as a result.