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3 Ways to Win With Remote Workers

The writing is on the wall. Up to 30 percent of the U.S. labor force is now made up of independent workers who are self-employed or do temporary work, many are remote workers. Even within a typical organization’s fulltime workforce, there is an increasing number of remote employees.

If the idea of managing remote workers or virtual teams makes your skin crawl, it’s likely because it brings up an array of challenges when it comes to communication, motivation and accountability. But, instead, consider these findings of a recent TINYpulse study:

  • Remote workers who choose to work offsite are happier with their jobs than most other workers.
  • Remote workers generally feel more valued than their in-office counterparts.
  • An overwhelming 91 percent of remote workers believe they get more work done when working remotely.

Global Workplace Analytics sweetens the pot with their own compilation of research aimed at proving how hiring remote employees can improve employee satisfaction:

  • Two-thirds of employees want to work from home. In fact, 36 percent would choose it over a pay raise.
  • A poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed 37 percent would take a pay cut of 10 percent if they could work from home.
  • Millennials (who are notoriously difficult to recruit and to retain) are particularly attracted to flexible work arrangements, rating them an 8 on a 10-point scale for impact on overall job satisfaction.
  • About 80 percent of employees consider telework a job perk.

In addition, there are many recruiting benefits to considering remote workers, as Nick Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University, tells Harvard Business Review.

“JetBlue allows folks to work as far as three hours from headquarters—close enough to come in now and again but a much bigger radius from which it can draw applicants,” Dr. Bloom says. “When I asked the people at JetBlue about this policy, they said it helped them gain access to educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs. The airline believes this policy has improved the quality of its workforce.”

So if you chose to make managing remote workers a part of your organization’s future, where do you begin?

  1. Make it part of your culture. Simply letting some employees work from home while the rest of the workforce remains in the office is doomed to failure. Organizations of all sizes can make a shift to a more flexible environment, as Dan Medlin, manager of talent acquisition atARM, recently told us. “Our work environment is built around flexibility. There is no standard work day anymore; no edict from the executives on what someone’s work day should look like. That’s between the employee and his or her manager,” Medlin explains. “I have recruiters on my own team who have proven they’re more productive working from home, so I give them the flexibility to do that regularly.”
  2. Set expectations. While some remote employees prefer a non-traditional schedule or have other quirks, it’s important to establish consistency. As an example, consultant Keith Ferrazzi recommends agreeing “on how quickly team members should respond to queries and requests from one another, and [outlining] follow-up steps if someone is slow to act. Virtual teammates often find themselves saying, ‘I thought it was obvious that…’ or ‘I didn’t think I needed to spell that out.’”
  3. Encourage and enable the right engagement. Hubstaff Co-Founder Dave Nevogt says communication is one of the most nuanced, yet important aspects of managing remote workers. While encouraging email, chat, Skype and phone calls is critical, so is knowing when each platform is best. “Email is most vulnerable to being misinterpreted since you’re missing all the context from tone-of-voice, body language, and facial expressions,” Nevogt warns. “When you’re about to have a fairly in-depth, lengthy or emotional meeting, you should always turn to Skype. It’s far more productive to video-chat with your employees for 45 minutes than type messages back and forth for two hours.”

What have you learned about hiring and managing remote employees? Are you excited about working with more remote workers in the future or does the thought make you want to hide under your desk? Share your opinions with us!


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