Working from home has become more common in today’s world. Some startups simply don’t have the space for new employees, while others may allow employees to work from home as an added job perk. But managing a remote workforce can be a challenge.
Since many Fortune 500 companies now allow their employees to work from home, there’s a new precedent to help leaders manage remote employees. In fact, since 2005, there has been a 103 percent growth in the number of telecommuters in the United States, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
The key to managing remote workers is to add structure, create a tracking metric, measure progress and quantify goals and outcomes. Let’s look at five ways to manage a remote workforce:
From the outset, be clear with your employees about what each project is and how success will be measured, says Christy Johnson, CEO and founder of the consulting firm Artemis Connection. For instance, if you work with computer programmers, a successful outcome will be that code is written, tested, and that it works properly. Focus on what needs to be delivered to the client, whether internal or external, to determine successful outcomes.
If they don’t have visibility into what is happening with your employees, some managers may be concerned about what work is being completed each day. One way to track progress, says Johnson, is to ask employees to create a timeline for each project and think through each activity in which they would be involved. Johnson’s team uses Asana, a software program that allows employees to break each activity down by task and then assign tasks to themselves or colleagues. Projects are visible to everyone at all times, she says, so everyone has visibility into the status of each task and the final project.
Create a sense of community
Even if the entire staff works from home every day of the week, it’s important to create a sense of community. Consider having core office hours when everyone will be online and available by phone even if it’s just four hours a day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, for example. Consider holding quarterly in-person meetings so everyone can connect and get to know each other better. “Even when you work remotely, you need to have a set time where people come together,” Johnson says.
When employees work flexible hours and are offsite, it’s easy to forget to pass along little details about work or the customer that would have been communicated in a hallway conversation or in passing in the kitchen. These little tidbits can make or break a project. Often, tangential information can spur ideas for projects, Johnson says. She suggests encouraging remote employees to share information, such as interesting articles related to a project along with a few bullet points explaining why the article is relevant. When people work remotely, context is important, she says.
Manage remote work like any other benefit
Working remotely is a privilege, not a right. “Managers should tout flexibility as a benefit, just like healthcare and a 401(k) plan,” Johnson says. “For millennials, it’s often the most important benefit.”