How to Manage Remote Employees

By February 28, 2013 One Comment

How to Manage Remote Employees

More and more often, we talk to clients whose employees are interested in working remotely for at least part of the time. Earlier this week, Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer sparked quite a bit of controversy when she announced that employees would be banned from telecommuting. According to some, it might not be a bad idea

Is telecommuting a bad move for your business? I think it depends. First of all, it depends on the person who will be working remotely. I worked from home for several years before working with Nexxtep, and I enjoyed the solitude and freedom. Others need face-to-face human interaction to feel happy and productive at work. To be a good telecommuter, one needs to be reliable, self-directed, and comfortable spending hours of time alone each day.

Once you have established that your employee would make a good remote worker, you need to create a suitable environment and establish certain parameters:

Clearly Define Duties and Deadlines

Even the most self-directed remote employee can feel lost without a set of clearly-defined expectations. Provide these expectations as early as possible, and hold your employee accountable for meeting prescribed deadlines.

Communicate as Much as Possible

According to a recent article on Business Insider, “A lot of people hid [at Yahoo]. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody even knew they were still at Yahoo.”

If you want to successfully manage remote employees, you have to be proactive about checking in. You might consider holding a daily web conference and/or weekly in-person meeting (if geography allows). This will help you keep track of your employee’s progress, and will also reaffirm to him that he is still an important part of your team. Google has taken communication a step further. To nurture a collaborative environment, some Google team members sign on to a Google Hangout, and stay connected all day. Instead of having to initiate a phone call or web meeting, a team member can just call out a coworker’s name. I think this is as close as you can get to sharing an office while working remotely.

Related: 5 Resources to Help You Supercharge Communications at Work 

Provide a Stable and Productive Environment

You can’t do everything to create a stable and productive environment for your remote employee. He should be responsible for designating a suitable, quiet workspace in his home and for keeping distractions to a minimum. You should be responsible for providing the proper equipment and tools.

These include:

  • A strong, stable, and secure Internet connection.
  • Company-owned and managed devices. These devices include the computer, phone, and/or tablets. Even if you do not own the employee’s phone or tablet, your company should still manage the devices if they are being used for work (this applies to on-premise workers as well). “Managing” the device entails providing the necessary software, operating systems and security services, keeping the operating systems and software up-to-date, and having the ability to monitor the device as needed.
  • Easy access to company files and systems.
  • Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) Phone Systems: With a VOIP phone system, you can plug in your office phone into any ethernet jack in the world and it will coordinate with your company’s phone system in seconds. One of our employees, Gil Morris, works from his home across the country in Phoenix, but I can dial his extension and reach him just as quickly as any other employee in our office building.

The goal with all of these steps is to ensure that your employee’s remote work experience is as close as possible to the experience he would have working in your main office.

Introducing: The Modern Office from Nexxtep

The Modern Office enables employees to work from anywhere, on any device. Learn more in this slide deck:

One Comment

  • Gil Morris says:

    This is a great read, Richard.

    I think you nailed the critical points that confront businesses with remote employees and the responsibilities of all parties involved. I think some companies that have not implemented the use of remote employees are just anxious and hear of more negative than positive outcomes. Also I believe that corporations that are utilizing remote employees save tremendously on overhead (for example, office space leasing, using VoIP phones versus traditional lines, and most larger cities provide broadband speeds for home offices that rival or even surpass corporate connections for a fraction of the cost). Also this gives businesses a chance to have a presence in geographic locations/regions they may not have (fully) staffed offices in.

    You are absolutely on the mark with being comfortable working for hours alone. It’s not for everyone and it takes an incredible amount of personal discipline. I suppose I am adjusted to it as I too, like you, worked from a home office for years prior to working at Nexxtep. The solitude and freedom to concentrate on work from the distraction of a busy office is something I am very comfortable with. That said, however, I am in constant contact with other staff at any given time via Instant Messaging, VoIP phone, mobile device and email. There are even a couple of staff that will video call from time to time to relay work information or if we both happen to be on a break just to say hello. For me working remotely has other benefits as well. One major one I can think if is the time difference between my office and HQ back in Georgia. During the Fall there is a two hour difference and in the Spring it moves to a three hour window. This allows for me to continue working out my day while several East Coast clients are out of the office having left for the day.

    And contrary to popular belief I do not wear bunny slippers while working (much).

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