Fifty-two percent of employees are already working from their homes at least one day a week and that trend is bound to continue with the growth of enabling technology for remote labor forces.
Companies which consider both the advantages and disadvantages of not having their workers under one roof are better equipped to handle it effectively.
The reality is that one situation is not necessarily better than the other; they are just different.
Many workers love being able to work at home, cutting out challenging commutes to work, the stresses of dealing with inclement weather in colder climates, and the endless office politics that distract them from their tasks.
But there are still some kinds of work situations where being scattered around different locations is less effective. Creative teams who brainstorm off each other are better contained under one roof. You may be able to solicit great ideas from your at home workers, for example, but those who are building a prototype may be more effective standing beside each other and talking as they go.
For human resources professionals, there are key differences in the management of remote and in-house workers as well.
For example, in house workers are much more apt to pop their heads into your office to tell you they are upset about something or they sense a situation they are working with may blow up. The home worker, on the other hand, doesn’t want to bother you because they have absolutely no idea where you are, what you are doing, or what kind of day you are having.
As a result, the at-home worker keeps trying to solve the problem on their own, when sometimes they could keep it from escalating if they discussed it with you.
Encouraging the sense that your managers and superiors are accessible to your remote workers is a primary strategy in having effective remote work teams. Make sure that each employee knows there is someone at the other end of the line or email willing to hear them out and offer a bit of advice.
Human resources professionals also know that when workers bond in a workplace, they can help each other a great deal. Assistance is readily offered and advice generated as needed. Building that kind of support network is crucially important for your remote workers as well. Try to find ways, whether through Skype meetings or occasional person-to-person sessions, to build up relationships among your remote work teams as well.
Finally, it pays managers to focus more on results than work styles when dealing with remote workers. It is okay if you insist that all your remote workers be available for a 10AM Skype call for example, if you feel that is necessary. But overall, try to impose as few time restrictions on them as possible, and instead focus on production deadlines.
Remember that the worker who toils from their home office is choosing to do that to gain better balance in their lives. So allow the worker who wants to work from 8AM to 2PM and then take five hours off to deal with children returning home from school, supper, and bedtime to happen. That same worker may return to their keyboard consistently after 7PM each night to finish their tasks to ensure everything is ready for the next morning.
If you receive the work when you need it, be content with that as opposed to imposing time regulations that you can’t really control remotely anyhow.
Just be clear about your expectations, about deadlines, and request daily status reports.