How to get the most out of remote workers

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More and more businesses are embracing remote working, choosing for staff to either work from home entirely or part of the week.

The figures are up by almost a quarter of a million in a decade, with the number reaching 1.5m last year.

Thanks to improved technologies, better communication systems and mobile computing, it’s now possible to organise efficient, effective teams no matter where they’re based.

Businesses save on overheads, office space and the entire infrastructure associated with an in-house member of staff. And remote workers get more flexibility over their time, whether they’re self-employed contractors or team members who either work from home or travel a lot for their role.

This flexibility can be a lifeline for working parents who also need time and space to take care of family responsibilities. As we know at HR GO, mums in particular who want to get back to work after having children are a huge untapped resource.

Different challenges

As a manager, you can get a handle on how engaged, committed and happy staff are just by walking around or popping to someone’s desk for a quick chat.

But with less chance for face-to-face dealings and spontaneous conversations, it can be harder to get a true sense of how remote workers are doing.

So here are some ways to make sure remote staff stay happy, productive and engaged - and an integral part of your team.

Keep them feeling accountable

Most remote workers want to do a good job and contribute towards the success of their company. And most don’t abuse the fact it might be harder to track what they’re doing because they’re off-site.

Yet without proper support and guidance, even the most diligent employee might start to feel a little disengaged. The risk? Motivation and accountability can all eventually suffer.

So set clear goals that you both agree to up front, then stick to regular progress checks. Just like any other employees, remote workers appreciate having a clear direction of what’s expected of them.

Help them feel part of the team

A downside of working off-site is feeling out of touch from the camaraderie and buzz of the workplace.

You’ll already be including remote workers in regular catch ups and team meetings - either face to face, or if they live too far away to attend in person, via phone or video conference call.

But don’t forget invitations to social events. The chance to chat to colleagues about things that have nothing to do with work builds rapport and camaraderie. This is important not just for feeling part of a team, but when it comes to collaborating on projects effectively.

And if they live too far to come along? The fact they were invited in the first place will help them feel included and valued.

Have the right tech

To-and-fro emails and regular conference calls might be all your remote workers need. But if they’re collaborating heavily on projects with tight deadlines they’ll need much more in the way of technology.

Luckily, it’s never been easier for remote teams to function seamlessly with efficient workflows. The latest cloud-based collaboration software and work management tools mean that colleagues can work together on shared documents in real time - no long and confusing email chains needed.

A few of the most-used team management tools include:

  • Google Docs, which enables remote teams to share and work on documents.
  • Dropbox for file sharing.
  • Slack for messaging within a team.
  • Asana or Trello to delegate tasks and organise them into projects.

Technology is a key player in the success of remote working. If you make it hard for people to collaborate or keep in touch with each other you’ll create frustration and ultimately disengagement.

But get it right, and you’ll find that your team goes from strength to strength - no matter where it’s based.