man working from home
30 October 2019
30 October 2019,

Working with remote employees have become the norm as many organizations around the world compete in the global space. However, it can be challenging especially for a company with no experience in handling the remote working setup. Employers may feel uneasy and find themselves unable to cope with managing their remote staff.

Similarly, employees who are unfamiliar with the remote working setup might be unprepared and may find it hard to adapt to the new setup.

Ultimately, making sure this particular setup works falls to the hands of the employer’s managerial skill. They must know how to overcome the challenges that come with having a remote team to make the situation amenable for everyone.

This article will provide more information about remote workers and their benefits. It will also discuss how to overcome the challenges that come with working with them.

  • What is Remote Work?
  • Benefits of Hiring Remote Workers
  • 7 Common Challenges in Managing Remote Employees
  • How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees
  • What to Look For When Recruiting Remote Employees?

What is Remote Work?

Remote work involves having individuals or employees work from home or anywhere that is not considered a traditional office. Some organizations require these remote workers to visit the office from time to time whereas some don’t if they currently live in another country.

Remote workers bring a lot of benefits in the workplace which is why multiple companies have become more comfortable in hiring them. According to Upwork’s 2018 Future Workforce Report, 55% of 1,000 hiring managers agree remote work has become more common compared with data from three years ago.

At the same time, prospect employees are more likely to apply for companies offering remote work especially those who hold great importance in maintaining good family and work-life balance. Of course, this isn’t the only reason numerous individuals prefer working at home. Other factors include the luxury of avoiding the daily commute, preventing a stressful schedule, and operating on more flexible hours.

Organizations can also benefit from this kind of work set-up. While there are still some common misconceptions about remote working, more and more businesses realize how it contributes to a good business strategy and are starting to shift towards a remote working schedule. Here are some of the top reasons for this shift:

Benefits of Hiring Remote Workers

  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Productivity Increase
  • Cost-Effectiveness
  • More Recruitment Options
  • Decrease in Absences
  • Decrease in Resignations

1. Employee Satisfaction

In a study conducted by Owl Lab, 53% of 3000 employees worldwide felt more productive when given the chance to work remotely. When asked for their reasons, many answered that they were more satisfied with the flexibility of the setup which in turn motivated them to be more productive. It makes sense that a worker is more likely to perform their best when they are given choice and flexibility when it comes to their working conditions.

2. Productivity Increase

A study conducted by Nicholas Bloom and Ctrip, a Chinese Travel website, further proved how hiring remote employees increases productivity in the workplace. In order to determine which work setup produced more results, they allowed half of their employees to work at home. As a result, they found out that the telecommuters did 13.5% more work than those who were working from the office.

Bloom explained that this productivity increase was mainly due to having a quieter environment. He also stated that remote workers worked more hours as they started earlier, had shorter breaks, and worked for the whole day.

3. Cost-Effectiveness

Hiring remote workers can also contribute to increased savings. A report by Global Workplace Analytics stated that a company can save over $700 billion a year if 50% of its workforce worked half at home and half at the office.

Hiring remote employees gives businesses the advantage of cutting back from expenses used on periodic maintenance, security, furniture, rented parking lots, equipment such as computers, coffee, water dispensers, and more.

4. More Recruitment Options

Remote working gives employers access to a larger pool of talent. In order to find the right person with all the necessary skills, companies sometimes have to broaden their reach and look beyond their current location.

Furthermore, employees with advanced degrees were more likely to work at home than people with low levels of educational attainment as stated in a survey held by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor) on 2017.

5. Decrease in Absences

A remote work setup also decreases the number of unscheduled absences. Since remote employees generally have flexible hours, they don’t have to take a leave of absence just to schedule a personal appointment.

Unlike office workers who are encouraged to stay at home when they’re sick, remote employees are free to work since the risk of infecting others is non-existent. The American Management Association further proved this when they experienced a 63% decrease in unscheduled absences after allowing employees to work from home.

6. Decrease in Resignations

Every time an employee leaves, Human Resources has to recruit someone to take his/her place. Unfortunately, this costs money. Aside from publishing recruitment listings in various job posting websites, attending job fairs, and hiring a recruitment agency, money is also spent on training and onboarding sessions for new hires. Not to mention, they also have to deal with some setbacks due to the lack of employees.

Hiring remote workers can help increase employee retention. According to Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2017 report, companies that offered remote work experienced 25% less turnover and noticed an increase on employee satisfaction.

7 Common Challenges in Managing Remote Employees

Although remote working offers a lot of advantages, multiple organizations still experience difficulties in managing it effectively. There are various challenges that come with this work setup which can discourage employers. Here are some of them:

  • Lack of communication with remote employees
  • Difficulty in connecting with other team members
  • Cultural and linguistic barriers
  • Schedule conflicts
  • Monitoring and tracking employee performance
  • Security risks
  • Technical difficulties

Lack of communication with remote employees

Unlike their co-workers who work at the office, remote employees are harder to manage due to their flexible hours and difference in time-zones. Therefore, the lack of communication is unavoidable. As a result, miscommunication occurs and they end up feeling isolated from their fellow employees.

Difficulty in connecting with other team members

A remote work set-up means a lack of face to face interaction with other team members. This makes it harder for them to form a connection with each other resulting in a lack of trust. Thus, projects may take longer to accomplish.

Cultural and linguistic barriers

Individuals from different countries similarly have different work ethics. Managers who lack an understanding of these cultural differences may find it difficult connecting with some of their remote employees.

Schedule conflicts

It’s difficult to set up meetings since choosing a time that is convenient for everyone can be tricky. This can lead to a lack of coordination between team members resulting to project delay. Employers end up feeling troubled as well since they can’t monitor or keep track of their remote employees’ performance.

Monitoring and tracking employee performance

Since remote employees aren’t physically in the office, monitoring their employee performance can be difficult. Moreover, it’s difficult to know when and how frequent one must check-in without becoming too overbearing.

Security risks

In order to reach them, some employers end up using other means of communication such as social media applications. However, this can be risky as security isn’t guaranteed and important information can end up being overheard by others.

Technical difficulties

Technical difficulties such as the remote employee losing internet connection are also not unlikely to arise.

How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees

In order for remote working to be effective across the organization, employers must learn how to efficiently monitor and manage their remote employees.

Good communication in the workplace is vital as it decreases the possibility of someone missing out on important information. Looking back at the challenges mentioned before, most of these can be solved by using chat and collaboration tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype, and the like. For discussions containing sensitive information, virtual meetings like large conference calls and video conferencing can be utilized.

Through these, employers can communicate with their remote employees and easily track the progress of their work. Virtual meetings can also help remote employees connect with their coworkers, increasing teamwork and company trust.

Even if an employee resides in another country, the employer can still reach them to touch base for project updates or ask how they’re doing. Additionally, some virtual meeting platforms offer transcription services that can transcribe everything that was discussed so employers can easily document everything.

Time-trackers and project management software are other types of tools that help increase productivity and efficiency when dealing with remote workers. Through this, companies can track which projects are in progress and how long it can take the employee to complete a certain task. In addition, companies can see which employees are more productive during their work hours.

Of course, merely having tools may not be enough. Managers must also know what strategies to use to ensure they stay connected and engaged with their remote employees. Here are some useful strategies:

  • Set clear expectations regarding work hours and meeting setups.
  • Provide employee training either though e-guides or videos. Teach them how to work from home more effectively.
  • Stay updated and check-in with remote employees through phone or video calls.
  • Give out clear and concise instructions and discuss project objectives off the bat.
  • Provide remote employees the opportunity to send their feedback.
  • Conduct team-building activities for remote workers if possible.
  • Incentivize high performing remote workers to encourage others.
  • Understand cultural differences and appreciate other people’s cultural backgrounds.

What to Look for When Recruiting Remote Employees

Hiring the right people is essential in forming a successful remote team. Unlike in-house office employees, hiring remote employees is more challenging since companies have to ensure they hire people who are independent and can be productive without much supervision. Therefore, it’s important for employers to know which qualities to look for when choosing a suitable candidate.

As such, here are the top skills to look for when recruiting remote employees.

  1. Communication skills

    Effective communication tools might not work if the employee doesn’t have the communication skills to back it up. Since remote employees have the disadvantage of being far away, misunderstandings can often occur. To prevent this, the employee has to know when and how to communicate with their team members to ensure that the project goes smoothly. Expectations should be clearly set especially when it comes to updating all stakeholders on the progress of a task or project.

    Good communication can raise the morale of the whole team as well.

  2. Self-disciplined and can work independently

    Although it’s important for remote employees to be a team player, they must also know how to work independently. Remote employees reside in a different location so there are cases when they have to figure things out themselves and be self-sufficient. They need to know how to do research on their own and have the self-discipline to be productive during their work hours.

    Moreover, remote employees are usually under less supervision unlike their in-house counterparts so they need to be reliable and trustworthy enough to establish trust with their team members and employers. After all, if the remote employee fails to complete their job, it can cause some setbacks affecting those around them.

    During the recruitment process, employers should give them some sample tasks to test if they can work effectively on their own.

  3. Equipped and fully prepared

    Before officially hiring the remote employee, make sure they have all the necessary equipment such as a laptop, a stable internet connection, and the like.

    Knowing which productivity tools to use paired with having technical aptitude is important as well. Additionally, it helps if they are well-organized with their files.

Final word

Despite the multiple challenges mentioned before, hiring remote employees can be rewarding as long as employers learn which tools and strategies to use to effectively manage them. Many studies report that remote working setup has the potential to increase productivity and performance efficiency. Exerting the extra effort to implement effective remote working strategies is sure to drive the team towards success.

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