If your business is like many others, you may be starting to see a shift in how you hire and employ people. Remote work is on the rise, so you have to figure out how you’re going to handle it.
The Rapid Rise of Remote Working
If your organization hasn’t confronted the issue of remote working, you’ll have to deal with it in the near future. According to a report from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, telecommuting has increased 115 percent over the past decade and more growth is imminent.
In 2015, three percent of the total U.S. workforce — or roughly 3.9 million workers — worked from home at least half the time. A separate Gallup Survey indicates 43 percent of employed Americans spent at least some time working remotely in 2016. Data for 2018 isn’t available yet, but these numbers undoubtedly have increased in recent months.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that remote working is popular across all demographics. The Global Workplace Analytics study shows half of remote workers are 45 or older, and there’s a 52-48 split in terms of females-to-males in work-from-home positions.
“There is still this stigma associated with an antiquated view that telecommuting is just a work-from-home mom thing or for lower level jobs or not as dedicated workers,” says Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs. “This is a very professional and viable option and it’s not going anywhere.”
Though advances in technology are certainly responsible for a substantial amount of the growth in remote working, it’s also worth looking at the growing list of benefits for both employers and employees as a driving factor. Fell points out that a part-time telecommuting worker saves the business more than $11,000 a year, on average.
On an individual basis, staffers can expect to save as much as $4,000 per year due to fewer transportation expenses (among other things).
That’s not to say remote work doesn’t involve its own set of challenges. There are plenty of issues, risks and hurdles to be cleared in order to ensure the exercise is successful, productive and profitable.
Four Tips for Managing Remote Employees
Simply gathering your team together one morning and letting them know they can work from home is probably a mistake and could cost your firm dearly, right away and in the future. A more strategic approach is required to make it work.
As you think about how you’re going to maximize the output, security and efficiency of your remote workforce, here are four essential tips you’ll likely want to implement.
1. Establish a Strong Security Infrastructure
Network security may be something your business spends a lot of time thinking about. It’s vital to the protection of your organization in the global marketplace and isn’t something you can afford to neglect.
Dave Greenfield, secure networking evangelist at Cato Networks, points out, “Optimizing and securing access from your offices to the internet and cloud is a must, but you also need to consider employees accessing the cloud at home or in public places. Tools such as firewalls, data encryption, two-factor authentication, and a VPN can help, while consistent employee training on best practices for secure remote working is also key.”
Each business adopts its own approach to security, but the crucial thing is that you’re being proactive. Remote working introduces an additional level of risk for your company, so you must apply an extra layer of security to handle these threats effectively.
2. Promote Accountability
If remote working is going to work for your operation, you have to have a culture of accountability in place. There are ways to track time and productivity using dedicated software and monitoring programs, but it’s preferable if you can encourage employees to adopt honest and transparent behaviors naturally.
“To boost your time tracking and monitoring culture, think about incentivizing employees to track their time and monitor their own performance,” Hubstaff co-founder Dave Nevogt suggests. “Consider holding competitions for the most efficient or productive employees, and stress how monitoring and time tracking helps to empower individual workers by giving them freedom and flexibility over their workload.”
3. Encourage Communication and Bonding
Whether you’re running a small accounting firm where everyone works in the same space, or a massive ecommerce business in which at least some people work remotely and coworkers may have never met in person, team bonding is typically an integral component of success. There are lots of ways to encourage it, but frequent and open communication works best in remote scenarios.
“When working remotely, team members don’t have a chance to make small talk with their neighbor in the next cubicle or discuss weekend plans by the coffeemaker. It’s that kind of personal chit-chat, however, that helps employees relate to each other,” Samantha McDuffee writes for TeamBonding.com. “Remote teams have to build time for small talk into group meetings.”
4. Regularly Meet in Person
It may take a few months before everyone on a remote team starts to open up and get the hang of how things work. It could take even longer if this is your team’s first time working outside a traditional office setting.
But you can speed up the learning curve and promote a sense of unity in various ways. One is to meet regularly in person. By scheduling a week or weekend when your team meets in person each year (or perhaps even every quarter), you can build some face-to-face chemistry and get everyone on the same page.
Depending on where each worker is located, this might not be cheap. But there’s almost always a positive return on investment.
Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon
Remote working has expanded tremendously in the past decade, but it’s only going to grow further in the coming years. If you want to stay competitive and continue to scale into the future, you need to keep your eyes on the horizon and stay abreast of new developments, changes and challenges.
By being proactive, you can get a head start and position your organization and employees to go as far as it’s possible for your operation to go.
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