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Tips on how to manage remote workers

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Remote employees don’t want to return to the office. If managers want to keep these workers happy – and keep them from quitting – they’ll need to learn how to create successful remote work arrangements. It’s time to learn how to manage remote workers effectively.

The Advantages of Remote Work

Proponents of remote work list lots of advantages. According to FlexJobs, remote work can result in less traffic and reduced environmental impact. Working remotely can also reduce unscheduled employee absences and increase productivity. Perhaps most notably, 95 percent of employers say that remote work has a strong impact on employee retention.

According to the People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View, a report from ADP Research Institute, 64 percent of the workforce would consider looking for a new job if their current job required them to return to the office full-time. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, that figure shoots up to 71 percent.

ADP also found that employees who work from home also tend to be more optimistic and satisfied. Among people working from home, 89 percent are optimistic about the next five years and 90 percent are satisfied with their employment. Among people who report to an office, only 77 percent are optimistic about the next five years and only 82 percent are satisfied with their employment. Just over half of workers are willing to take a pay cut to keep flexible or hybrid working arrangements.

Difficulties Managing Remote Employees

Despite all the benefits associated with remote work, some managers are not on board.

According to Reuters, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. criticized remote work at a conference in New York. He said that remote work didn’t support spontaneous idea generation or culture.

It appears that many business leaders agree. Microsoft’s Annual Work Trend Index Report found that 50 percent of leaders say their company either already requires or is planning to require full-time in-person work.

It’s true that remote work arrangements come with potential pitfalls. Because workers don’t get regular face-to-face interaction with their bosses and colleagues, remote teams might feel disconnected, and remote team members could miss out on opportunities to succeed in the company. CNBC says that some workers who work from home, especially women, are worried about missing out on promotions, a concept one person calls the “Zoom ceiling.”

There is also concern that workers will be less productive because it’s harder to manage remote teams. Resume Builder found that 37 percent of remote workers are juggling two full-time jobs. Some of these workers maintain separate work schedules, but others “double-dip” by completing remote work while at an in-person job.

Some managers have dealt with these concerns by using software to monitor remote workers. However, some remote employees find this invasive, and there have also been concerns about privacy laws. According to HR Dive, employers who want to monitor workers in this way may need to provide a notice, but whether or not this is actually required may depend on several factors, including the location and whether the equipment needed is provided by the employer. Another issue is that employees may be able to trick some software systems that monitor keystrokes or mouse movements using a variety of hacks that have become popular with the rise of remote work.

Engaging Remote Workers

For remote teams to be successful, engagement must be achieved. This requires looking at the remote work environment holistically.

Remote employees should feel that their work matters. This can be accomplished in different ways – for example, by acknowledging the contribution of employees and by providing incentives to increase productivity. Providing mentorships and advancement opportunities can also help remote workers feel like they have a reason to stick with a company.

Socializing and community involvement may also help engage workers. Remote work can be isolating, and employees should have opportunities to socialize and connect with both their colleagues and their community.

Training Remote Workers

Onboarding can be a challenge in the remote environment. The employer needs to establish company culture and policies while also establishing expectations and making sure workers know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.

Supplying the employee handbook and some training modules won’t necessarily be enough. Remote workers need an opportunity to ask questions, and the individuals in charge of training should check in regularly to make sure that onboarding is going well.

Communication for Remote Teams

Communication is absolutely essential. This is true for both in-person and remote teams. However, when workers don’t see each other face-to-face every day, they may be less likely to ask questions and discuss matters, and that can lead to problems. It’s important to have regular check-ins and team meetings. These check-ins should cover both work-related issues and progress on various projects as well as socializing and conversations to see how employees are doing in general.

At the same time, it’s also important not to go overboard. If there are too many communications, and if too many different channels are used, employees may start to get overwhelmed.

Managing Remote Workers: Best Practices

For many companies, remote work is still a new frontier. There are a lot of issues to be worked out. However, this doesn’t mean that remote work arrangements can’t be successful. By following these remote work best practices, companies can help their employees thrive.

  • Clearly separate work time from personal time. One of the big advantages to remote work is that it can be flexible. This is especially important for parents who are juggling caregiving and work responsibilities. However, there’s a risk that remote workers will always be on the clock. This is a problem because it can lead to burnout and poor work life balance, not to mention possible employment liability and workers’ compensation issues. Create clear boundaries so employees don’t feel that they need to reply to emails and be on call 24/7.
  • Create communication strategies that work for your team. Consider both the tools that are used to communicate (for example, email, phone calls, video calls, virtual meetings, project management tools or messaging) as well as the frequency of communication. Beware of creating constant interruptions with tools like group chat.
  • Set clear expectations for productivity. Workers should know what is expected of them. They should also have a way to discuss concerns with their supervisors, for example, if the workload is too much.
  • Invest in the right remote work tools. The right tech tools can make remote work collaboration easier. Explore your options and find programs that help your workers.
  • Carefully weigh the pros and cons of using monitoring software. There are both privacy law issues and morale issues to consider. Although you might decide that you need monitoring software, you may also find that it’s more effective to focus on employees’ results.
  • Don’t forget about cybersecurity. Hackers have been exploiting remote work vulnerabilities. Make sure your systems are secure.
  • Develop a written remote work policy. All of these issues should be addressed in a written remote work policy so that workers know what is expected of them. Other issues to address include who is eligible for remote work, what percentage of work can be done remotely and when and why remote work options might be rescinded.
  • Adjust as needed. We’re all still learning. Review your remote work arrangements periodically to see if they can be improved and listen to your employees’ ideas for making remote work successful.

Knowing how to manage remote workers is becoming one more skill HR pros need. Could you use some HR assistance? Learn about our HR services.

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