Companies with remote workers share two common characteristics: happy employees and efficient teams. Any company would be glad to have those traits, but whether you're just starting a flexible work program or happen to manage some remote workers already, it can be a difficult task to monitor employee productivity when people are not there in the office with you.
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Giving employees the freedom to get their work done from home or a local café, though, can be just the boost they need to increase their project output. You can set your remote workers up for success with these five quick tips:
1. Set Specific Guidelines
Make sure your remote workers know what is expected of them while they're virtually present. Giving them specific guidelines, like a maximum 30-minute response time frame to emails and communication efforts from superiors, can help open up the lines of communication and ensure that everyone receives answers in a timely manner. Tell remote workers to give notice when stepping away from their computers so others don't think they aren't working or being responsive when they're actually just warming up some soup for lunch. Email isn't really built for this, so avoid it for remote comunications if you can!
Tools to Support This: Yammer, Google Hangouts, Slack
2. Assess Productivity After an Allotted Amount of Time
When employees first get started working remotely, it can be tricky to ensure their productivity is at an optimal level. Although 86 percent of respondents in a nation-wide survey said they hit maximum productivity when working alone, working remotely is not a right; it is a privilege employees should be able to earn and prove capable of handling. You can evaluate their ability by assessing employee productivity after they have put in a certain amount of time working remotely.
If assessing an employee who exclusively works away from the office, check their productivity after a two-week trial period. If you're starting to offer work from home days to in-office workers, check the progress they've made after their first two days of being off-site by having them send a completed task list at the end of the second day.
Tools to Support This: Wrike, Basecamp, Bitrix24
3. Don't Jump the Gun
As you put a timeline on assessing your employee's productivity, make sure not to assume right away that people are not being honest about the work they're producing. Adjusting to a work-from-home routine is just as difficult for employees as it is for employers. Trust your employees and give them some freedom. Remote workers are 20 percent more productive when they get to tackle creative projects, so don't micromanage or they will start to question why you even allowed them to work from home in the first place.
Tools to Support This: iRevu, 15Five, TinyPulse
4. Ensure They Have All the Necessary Resources
If you want employees to be productive from their apartments, you need to make sure they have all the necessary resources first. These resources could include reliable and (preferably) fast internet connections, monitors, conference-call logins, and locations without distractions. If employees don't have the right tools, then they certainly won't be able to succeed.
Companies that have remote workers see a savings of about $11,000 per worker per year by letting people work from home just half of the time. Consider this when thinking about whether or not you can provide resources for employees. You may not be able to give them distraction-free zones (they'll have to figure that one out themselves), but you should think about what would make it easier for them to stay connected with other employees and productive while working away from the office. Be sure to think about what you could do for your employees with the money you're saving!
Tools to Support This: Google Drive, smartphone, tablet or laptop
5. Set Up Weekly Meetings
If you have employees who work remotely every day, then it's a good idea to set up weekly meetings via Skype or conference call to chat about how the week is going and upcoming projects. Offering remote working options can help reduce employee turnover on its own, but you also want to make sure employees stay up to date.
In addition to the weekly calls, invite employees to log in for company meetings so they feel as if they're still part of the team. Encourage your in-office employees to keep lines of communication open through tools like Skype and Google Hangouts.
Tools to Support This: Skype, Uberconference, Speek
The are many advantages to offering remote work options, like lower stress levels, decreased overhead costs, and higher employee engagement, but all of that is worthless if you don't set your remote workers up for success from the beginning. Be sure to give employees the tools they need, set clear expectations, and keep communication in mind, and you'll be able to enjoy the benefits of happy and productive remote workers!
A version of this article originally appeared on the Red Branch Media blog.