Whether your company is comprised solely of remote workforce, or a combination of office and remote employees, most of the obstacles you face can be overcome by integrating the appropriate technology solutions into the workforce. From cloud-based interfaces to real-time mobile apps, software developers are constantly coming up with solutions that facilitate communication, track working hours, deadlines and projects, and also monitor their employees’ project management and productivity.
For anyone trying to create a seamless remote working culture, it is important to think about effective ways of building a team, establishing good communication, keeping everyone engaged and motivated and keeping track of their task management in order to ensure that they are on the right track. Here are five tips that will help you increase your remote employees’ productivity and set up a foundation for managing them successfully.
Establish Good Communication with Remote Employees
It is imperative for leaders of remote teams to develop effective procedures of communicating with them.
Research has shown that personal contact is key to keeping your remote employees motivated and helping them feel included.
In an ideal situation, you would be able to bring them into the office every once in a while, but using communication technology to include them into meetings will go a long way as well.
Whether you opt for having daily check-ins to summarize the progress of the tasks at hand, or weekly progress reports, or both – make sure you keep a regular schedule in order to prevent your remote employees from feeling disconnected and alienated.
Many experts agree that video conferencing is the best option for you – it is important to retain a clear image of your remote workers’ faces, and not just the photo they’ve attached to their bio. Aside from that, it is also valuable to take some time to inquire about their life, or simply chat about things that are unrelated to work, as you would with in-office employees.
That way they will truly feel like part of the team, and you will make sure that the entire team has the same kind of information at their disposal.
However, it is advisable for the manager not to be the only point of contact with remote workers. Introducing chat clients into your employees’ daily routine, so that they can communicate with each other, comment on and consult about current projects or daily tasks, will not only help them feel more connected, but it will also give them a more complete picture of both the company’s and the project’s end goals, as well as their own role.
Anticipate Issues with Different Time Zones
One of the greatest challenges that managers of remote employees face is the matter of overcoming time zone barriers.
The magnitude of the problem depends entirely on the time difference itself, but it is nevertheless essential to schedule a time where you can touch base with the whole team, both individually and all together.
If it should happen that you are operating with employees who are on the other side of the planet, it could prove overwhelmingly complicated to arrange for a meeting that will not completely inconvenience them.
One way of dealing with this is making sure that your remote employees are not the ones who will always suffer the consequences of such an inconvenience. Keeping in mind the different schedules and time constraints of everyone involved, you should strive to introduce variety into the schedule and take turns organizing meetings outside of someone else’s working hours each time.
Another obstacle you may encounter is time wasted while working on certain tasks or projects in case of a misunderstanding.
If your working hours drastically differ from those of your remote employees, you will most likely be a day late in preventing any mistakes that might arise from a lack of understanding of the task itself.
This is why it is important to establish a protocol that will be based on as direct a communication as you can arrange for. Brief them on their assignments via conference calls, after which you will request a written recap of everything you discussed to make sure they understand what is required of them, or use screenshots to clarify your instructions when sending them out via email.
Make sure to have everything written down in an email or project management software, so that you will be able to track your employees’ performance and where something went wrong.
While some managers may wonder if putting all this effort into overcoming time zone barriers is worth it, it is important to keep in mind that location flexibility of your remote employees will not only allow you to have less limitations when choosing the worker who is fit for your team, but you will also be able to provide your customers with better, round-the-clock support.
Introduce Automated Supervision and Management
Regardless of whether you are managing a team of ten or fifty remote employees, it can prove taxing to ensure that you are actually getting everything you are paying for.
Technology is the backbone of any business model you implement in regard to your remote employees, and in the past few years, software developers have created a number of solutions that enable managers to have more insight into their staff’s activities and their use of working hours.
One of the main dilemmas for such managers has always been how to check if their employees are staying on task, and now there is an entire market for time tracking and employee monitoring software that can help them ensure it.
Experts almost unanimously agree that micromanaging remote employees is the wrong approach. It creates an atmosphere of mistrust, which can in turn lead to undue stress and lack of productivity and enthusiasm.
This is where time tracking and employee monitoring technology solutions come in handy. Having them install the software onto their computers will allow you to track when your staff clocks in and out, which tools, apps and websites they use and for how long, and how much progress they are making on their tasks and projects, all the while leaving them enough space for relative autonomy.
Progressive employment arrangements require their own set of progressive solutions, and saving up funds on office space will not be as profitable as it seems if it turns out your remote employees are slacking and wasting the hours you are paying them for.
Hence the need to shift the focus on their output, and the actual results, which is what makes time tracking and employee monitoring solutions a necessary fit for this kind of arrangement.
Use the Right Technology
When it comes to remote employees, every effort to increase their productivity and satisfaction in the workplace revolves around technology.
It is a right set of technology solutions that will help you make sure that your remote employees feel connected to the rest of the team, that they understand their tasks and follow them through according to plan, and that they are a part of the company culture and share its goals.
Trying to manage remote employees solely via email and phone calls has proven to be unsustainable, so quality project and employee management software is now a vital part of organizing staff and keeping track of project tasks and deadlines.
For instant communication, exchange of ideas, project discussions, sending out files, sharing knowledge and experience and helping each other out, many companies use group chat apps such as Slack or HipChat.
For taking that communication to the next level and creating an online office that gathers the entire remote team together from any location, use Sococo.
For video conference calls and meetings, there is such a wide variety of options that you are bound to find the right fit for your company, depending on the number of people attending meetings and the additional perks that most suit your requirements. Some of the most popular solutions include Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Zoom.
For project management, which involves tracking activities, managing and accomplishing tasks, meeting deadlines, making to-do lists, and whatever else you may need to ensure your project’s success, there are also many software solutions. Depending mostly on the size of your team, as well as the customization these tools offer, you can undoubtedly find the right one for you. Among the most commonly used software are Basecamp, Teamwork Projects, Asana and Trello.
For measuring productivity and retaining control, there has been a surge of automated time tracking, office and remote employee monitoring software in the past few years. Such software provides employers with insight into their remote staff’s workday, thus allowing them to analyze their employees’ overall productivity, and where there is room for improvement. The tools such as WorkPuls also generate time and attendance reports, productivity statistics and trends, time allocation per projects/clients, and much more.
Finally, for introducing a document and file management system, tools such as Google Docs and Dropbox are most frequently used. It is vital for your remote team to make it a habit to regularly share updates on their work where everyone else can access them. These tools are the most efficient way of keeping everyone up to date with the latest version of files in use.
Once you have a set of tools in place, be sure to check everyone understands how to use them, and provide them with the adequate support to do so consistently. On the other hand, make sure you fully utilize as much of the each tool’s benefits as possible.
Implement an Individualized Employee Recognition Program
It is very easy for employees to feel like their efforts went unnoticed or were overlooked, and especially so when those employees work remotely. Therefore, it is vital to introduce some kind of an individualized employee recognition program, which will let them know that they are appreciated and valued.
Linking rewards to performance is a well-established performance management tactic, and among the best ones at a manager’s disposal.
Make a point to recognize your workers’ efforts and to commend their good work, both by taking the time for one-on-one communication, where you will give them constructive feedback and praise their accomplishments, as well as by publicly acknowledging them, so that they know their good results are appreciated.
Providing your employees with tools that will facilitate their work, giving them benefits, showing that you care for their mental, emotional and physical well-being, as well as distributing bonuses for their continual efforts is bound to pay off in more ways than one.
Employee monitoring software is helpful in these situations, as the reports that it provides clearly and reliably show who the most productive and reward-worthy employees are. It also eliminates the chance of shifting blame unfairly – whether it is another employee speculating where the blame lies, or the manager’s subjective impression of what went wrong – you will want to avoid it at all costs, as it is highly demoralizing.
No matter the particulars of the employee recognition program you decide to implement, you should keep in mind that there is no single tailor-made approach for all employees. It will also depend on the employee’s personality, individual goals and preferences, which is why every manager needs to take the time to get to know their workers and figure out a way how best to engage with them in order to bring out their maximum potential.