More and more of today’s work is happening in the digital world. From editing files in the cloud to employees working from all over the globe, there are a lot of benefits to embracing the way that digital can boost your bottom line. Managing a team of remote workers can have its challenges, but it’s not impossible — in fact, it may even be preferable. Here are a few creative, outside-of-the-box ways to assemble and manage remote workers.
Design a Virtual Watercooler
Help people get to know each other better and become more connected to their coworkers by opening up channels to communicate about topics outside of work. You can use project management tools like Asana for these very kinds of interactions. From favorite recipes to sports, from working parents to recent college graduates, you can help your remote team stay more loyal and dedicated to your business and each other.
Make Communication Accessible
From conference calls to video chats and emails to Skype, make sure you have a variety of channels open for communication. This can give people options for asking questions, receiving feedback and planning projects in a variety of ways. It can also help people who process information differently have access to their preferred learning style. For example, you can record video calls and conference calls so people can rewatch them if they want. You can also create transcripts of the calls so that employees can reference the text. Rather than hiring a transcriber, save money with an automated speech-to-text service that provides notes in under an hour; some services cost as low as $0.10 cents per minute.
Provide a Coworking Stipend
Encouraging your remote employees to get out of the house occasionally for work can be a major boost to productivity and morale. A change of scenery can be like a breath of fresh air into someone’s workday. It can be as simple as a monthly $25 gift card to Starbucks or a discounted membership at a coworking space. Not only are these places where your remote team can find community, but they also often provide access to resources such as printers, scanners, and docking stations with large computer monitors.
Delegate More Responsibility
Sometimes, remote work can be repetitive, and workers start to feel like cogs in a machine. You can make them feel valued while also diversifying their workload by delegating more responsibility. Provide project management training and rotate through the PM position on each team. Start a mentoring program when established telecommuters mentor recent hires. Ask them to contribute in some other meaningful way, like posting a blog on your company’s website, sharing time management tips, or making sure people submit their invoices on time.
Encouraging Transparency by Supporting Flexibility
By law, some remote workers have their own say about their work schedules. However, extending that level of flexibility to your full-time and part-time remote employees can be a big win, too. Many businesses new to remote workers become worried that if you can’t see an employee working, they will be more tempted to goof off. The truth is, if an employee doesn’t want to work, they will be distracted at a desk in your office, too. It’s important to look at the quality of the work — that it meets expectations and was submitted on time. Engrain that honesty and flexibility into your culture by asking all employees to share their calendars. That way meetings can be scheduled at times convenient for everyone, and you can provide positive, constructive feedback to employees who might need to focus a bit more on their work life.
Getting creative with remote employee engagement may not feel like a priority now, but it really could make or break your business’s future. With a 140 percent increase in telecommuting jobs over the last 15 years, having satisfied remote workers — whether full-time, part-time, or contractors — will have an impact on productivity, performance, and customer satisfaction.