As more and more startups emerge with a shoestring budget and limited resources, telecommuting is on the rise.
Technology allows small business owners and entrepreneurs to run their companies online, using remote workers based anywhere in the world. From Shanghai to Manilla, Barcelona to New York, top talent in every field is now just a click away.
Freelance workers, in fact, are predicted to make up half of the workforce in the U.S. alone by 2020. The sharing economy has given further rise to this growing tendency. When people can rent out their apartments, turn their car into a taxi and provide skills from the comfort of their home—what need is there for commuting to the traditional office?
We can host a teleconference from our living room, sign off approvals from our smartphones and keep tabs on our team through Skype. Business owners can make significant cost savings working with employees remotely.
Yet, the idea of working with people you don’t know, who you can’t see and can’t control is scary to a lot of managers. After all, when you’re investing money in someone to complete a job, how do you know that they’re working for you and not on other tasks? How do you know they’re actually concentrating instead of watching the latest rerun of “Friends” on cable? How do you manage your remote employees effectively from a distance? Here are a few tips:
Day Translations is an online translation services provider staffed almost entirely by freelance, remote workers. How does President and CEO Sean Hopwood manage to keep tabs on everyone? By ensuring that everyone hired is an effective communicator. He explains:
“Starting out working with remote employees is hard, you have to learn to adapt. Not just to the technical problems, like internet speeds and power outs, but the cultural ones, as well. It’s easy to misunderstand what someone is saying when they’re typing on a chat. To prevent misunderstandings, we hold weekly face-to-face meetings and ensure that everyone knows the value of professionalism in their written and oral communication.”
Remember that you can have real conversations with your team, even if they’re working from a mobile office or local Starbucks. A lot of companies get so used to programs like Trello and Slack, that they forget about human contact. Make sure you’re not ignoring your staff or making them feel like a robot. Working from home can be isolating, so be sure to find time for some personal chit-chat as well.
According to The Muse, “how was your weekend?” is one of the most important questions you can ask your employees to keep them happy and motivated. It may seem like a small thing, but it shows how invested you are in their happiness in and out of the workplace.
Learn to trust your employees
Trusting your remote workers can be hard. But, the best way of making sure the work is being done is by setting targets and measuring the results. When you have deadlines and work to be completed, it’s easy to see who’s working hard and who isn’t. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. Remote workers have actually been found to be more productive, not less, so your fears are probably unfounded.
So, when you’re faced with a power out or your employees don’t answer you in instants on Skype, don’t always assume the worst. Think about whether they are hitting targets or not and how valuable they are to the company. Remember that trust is a two-way street. You want your employees to trust in you and the growth of your company, as well. Just because they work from home, doesn’t mean the job is less valuable.
“We always tell our employees that there is plenty of room for growth with us. We offer long-term positions and job security. If they work hard and offer ideas, they will be valued and promoted,” says Hopwood.
Keep your employees accountable for their tasks and let every team member know where they stand. Whichever platform you prefer to use, try to get all your team members to see targets and the status of a project from one place. When everyone can see that a project is being held up because of a certain employee, you can detect where the weak link is. This gives you a chance to correct the pattern.
Is it because you’re asking too much of this employee, or because they aren’t up to the job? Being held accountable for tasks makes people more motivated to do them. You get to see results and the whole company works more efficiently.
Yes, working remotely is different from getting everyone together around a meeting room table. But, if you make sure you nip any misunderstandings in the bud before they start, place emphasis on important communication and create an environment of trust, your company can be the very model of efficiency. Get more work done at lower costs. Win-win.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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