7 Tips for Empowering Employees with Remote Work

You’ve read plenty of articles and heard all about telecommuting, remote work, working from home, flexible work hours… the list goes on. You’ve heard it makes employees happier, that it’s ‘good for business’, yada yada.

So you offer the option to your employees. Now what?

work remotely

You have always worked at the office! You always managed employees in cubicles near you. If you needed something, they were right there. If you needed to meet, you walked over to talk to them. You could see them working, and could tell when they were spending more time chatting up their coworkers or browsing the Internet instead of working on that monthly report.

“How do you know your employees are working if you can’t see them? How do you know they’re not just lying around watching TV if they’re ‘working from home?’”

To be honest, you have to let go of that mentality. And I’ll get into that more later.

I work about 80% of my time at home, at coffee shops, co-working spaces, or staying at a friend’s or family member’s place to visit and work. I have some colleagues that work 100% remotely. And they’ve found a way to make remote work— work.

remote work

Here’s from when I worked remotely from my grandpa’s in FL this month.

So, after a few years of experience doing this, here are a few tips for implementing remote work options at your company.

Remote work: How to make it work for you

1. Explain that this is a privilege, not a right.

Unless employees have a proven track record or have worked remotely in the past, allow them to earn the privilege (if they can keep their performance level up.) You can test their remote working abilities with a transition period during which your employee only works remotely a few days each week.

If you find that work is not getting done or you can’t seem to communicate effectively, don’t just say, “I told you so.” Try a few different configurations. Set times for regular calls so you can be on the same page with scheduling. Be clear about expectations, deadlines, and project details.

More often than not, it’s not the remote work relationship that gets in the way—it’s a team’s inability to communicate.

2. You will need to invest in some tools

Here we go, the infamous ‘cloud’ — we’ve all heard about it, and some of us actually understand it. But moving your project management tools and company to cloud-based platforms will not only be crucial in the long run for your company’s operations efficiency, but it’s imperative you have cloud-based tools if you have remote employees. They need to have the ability to work from anywhere via Internet connection.

For example — for us, Dropbox changed how we do things and manage files and projects entirely… but for the BETTER. We have everything stored up there with a business account that enables us to have over 1TB of space for about ~$1000/year. We can share and link to files internally and to clients with a click of a button. How much did that server cost you again?

I talk more about must-have [remote working tools and apps here].(link)

3. The way you manage your employees will change a bit

You can’t walk over to an employee’s desk at any given moment to check in on them or sneak peak at their computer screen if they’re not there. But they are working, and they will get their work done.

working remotely

Sure, it might mean that their working hours are more flexible and the work is getting done later at night or early in the morning. But as long as it’s being completed and is quality work…does the time it was done really matter?

Also think about how productivity can actually improve with remote work: When employees leave the office space, they also leave those workplace interruptions (people popping in to chat) that slow down their workflows.

4. You need to let go some.

Remember when your Dad let you take out his car for the first time after getting your license? Or maybe you remember handing over the keys to your daughter for the first time, scared to death wondering if your car would come back in the same shape it left in (…and well, your daughter, too).

You have to let go. You have to lend some trust. And if you did your hiring well, you should be confident in whom you hired. You should feel comfort knowing you have competent employees you know are good at what they do and have a proven record of delivering and performing consistently.

5. You will have new communication norms

During the workday, I’m working, unless I give him a heads up I’m out during lunch or something, but will work a little later so I can make sure I get my work done. (That’s where flexible hours come in.) But as connected as we are today, you can most likely still reach your employee somehow, some way. Brad and I use iMessages primarily to IM during the day on our computers, but within reasonable hours. We’ll use Skype to chat “face-to-face”

Whether it’s through text messaging, a chat service, or email that pops through right to your smartphone, your team is more connected than ever — and there’s a ton of new apps out there that are made specifically for remote working companies. So while you can’t stick your head in their cube to ask a question, you can likely reach them just as fast with technology.

6. You have to allow some flexibility

For working moms and dads, this is especially crucial. With hectic schedules that mean coordinating pick up times, school events, and sick kids, nothing seems to stress parents out more than the inability to care for their children. Allowing flexible hours means parents can still be there for their children while being fantastic employees—they don’t have to choose one or the other.

working remote

The numbers prove it: Cisco conducted research and found that remote employees reported an 80% improvement in quality of life. It’s good for retention, too: Happy employees with work-life balance are more likely to stay with you.

7. You need a solid reporting system and to set clear expectations

Sure, you can study the success of your remote employees by deadlines. But using a reporting system that shows hard numbers on how remote work is improving (or decreasing) the success of their roles will give you a the real details.

For example: If your digital content manager (website, social media, blogs, etc.) works remotely, use tools like Hubspot, Hootsuite, and Google Analytics to study trends over time. Look at reports at least monthly to see where improvements can be made, and make sure your remote employee knows exactly what goals he/she is expected to reach.

These 7 tips are just the beginning of making remote work part of your business. Over time, you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t for your unique business.

The bottom line: Explore the option before ruling out the idea. You might even be surprised at how it improves everything from company culture to project outcomes.
Photo credit: Jorge QuinterosPaul Jacobsonmootown

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Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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