If you have decided to allow part of your workforce to work remotely, either from home or at a satellite office, then you need to have the right equipment and procedures in place to ensure the job gets done.
Setting up communications
Modern technology has given us all the tools we need to work remotely. Switching to a mobile VoIP phone system will allow your staff to call the office at any time and usually for free. Their VoIP smart phone will become their weapon of choice for communicating with customers and checking in with you.
As well as free phone calls, a VoIP-enabled smart phone will also give them access to a range of other communication tools, including teleconferencing and video conferencing, instant messaging, email and text messaging.
A smart phone for each remote employee should also be backed up with a laptop or PC to enable them to perform all the normal data entry functions they would have done at the office.
Setting up procedures
Having procedures to follow is particularly important when your staff are no longer in the office where you can keep an eye on them. The kinds of procedures you put in place will depend on the kind of work they are doing, but regular communication should be the main priority. They might include:
A phone call once in the morning to confirm what’s on for their day and once in the evening to see how they went
A weekly one-on-one session with each employee, either by phone, video conferencing or face-to-face
Regular group virtual meetings to keep everyone in the loop and to reinforce team spirit (this is where video conferencing can be a very useful tool)
Access to document sharing on platforms such as Google Docs to allow remote collaboration on joint projects
Use of time tracking software on smart phones and PCs to monitor productivity
Use of email and instant messaging for day to day issues (everything that doesn’t require a phone call)
Access to company data via the cloud or secure company network
Pre-determined targets and goals to be met by each remote employee.
As well as setting up procedures for everyone to follow, you will need to be much more pro-active than a normal manager. You need to make yourself available at any time (within reason) to answer queries and discuss problems, as one of the down-sides of working remotely is that employees can begin to feel isolated and unappreciated when they are outside the company support network.
You will also need to be more tactful in the way you communicate with remote employees, as the requirement for too much contact could be construed as interference or lack of trust. You should endeavour to maintain a friendly, helpful and informal manner in your day to day dealings with them.
Managing employees remotely requires special skills, special equipment and firm procedures to see that everyone stays in the loop and continues to perform at their best. Because your employees are miles, or possible even hundreds of miles away, you have to be much larger than life in order to make your presence felt.