So far, we’ve talked about the remote worker’s side of things: what it takes to be effective at the job, why working from home is a great idea for many people, and what sort of tools can really help the process along.
Today, let’s take a look at things from the employer’s perspective, particularly how to monitor one’s remote employees.
We’ve already established the ways in which remote work can be advantageous for employers.
Less workers at the office mean less overhead expenses and potentially less intense office politics, for starters. However, all those benefits would come to naught if your remote employees don’t get anything done or take forever to do so.
The question now is, how do you keep an eye on your remote workers without impinging on their privacy? (Remember, few things will discourage a quality employee as much as an employer who obsessively tracks every keystroke.) Here’s how:
1. Use the right software.
Telematics is a fancy term for remote monitoring via technology and yes, it’s legal to keep an eye on your employees’ electronic communication and online activity (though, again, it’s best to keep this sort of surveillance strictly in relation to their work).
Thankfully, there’s a myriad of tracking software available out there, from ones that track your employees’ location to those that manage their schedules and off days. You can even opt for a program that takes screenshots of your employees’ activities, but just make sure they have the option to log off at the end of their shift, lest you inadvertently catch a glimpse of what they use the incognito tab for after hours, if you know what I mean.
2. Set up task sheets that your remote workers can access.
This is something that we on the team subscribe to. A task notifications sheet (complete with notes on when a task was assigned, whom it was assigned to, and when it should be completed as well as links to the finished output) on Google Docs is a great way to check how productive your remote workers are at a glance.
Assigning specific colors to each member of the remote workforce also makes it so much easier to determine the point person for certain aspects of each project.
3. Promote active collaboration.
Just because remote employees work independently doesn’t mean they can’t be tapped to collaborate, regardless of whether it’s with their office-based counterparts or their fellow telecommuters.
Having clearly-defined responsibilities for each remote worker while encouraging them to collaborate with other colleagues is one way to keep them in the loop while giving them enough breathing space to do their thing. It also makes it easier for you to check in on the entire team by inquiring with the project head about how everyone is doing.
4. Check in with them from time to time.
No amount of cutting-edge software can completely take the place of personal communication, however.
So, drop your remote employees a line occasionally, whether to congratulate them on a job well done or just to see how they’re doing. This will simultaneously make your presence felt (i.e., a way of making your workers realize that you are still very much present and are up to date with things) and will also make your remote staff feel like their work is appreciated, something that could only be good for their motivation and productivity.
5. Don’t forget to monitor for rewards as well.
Remote monitoring shouldn’t be used solely as a deterrence, so consider the flip side as well.
One disadvantage that remote workers have as compared to their in-office counterparts is that they’re less likely to be considered for performance rewards or promotions. (“Out of sight, out of mind,” if you would.) So unless your entire workforce is remote-based, don’t forget to measure and compare your remote workers’ performance with everyone else’s when you’re mulling over who to reward or acknowledge for your business hitting a certain milestone.
On a final note, assigning the right person to a remote work position is half the battle. A person’s character and personality is a big clue as to how reliable and trustworthy s/he would be as a remote employee. Hardworking employees who take pride in meeting deadlines and delivering a quality product would be a good fit in both remote and onsite settings, but those who identify as task-oriented, introverted loners are an especially ideal fit for telecommuting since they won’t get as derailed by the relative isolation as their more gregarious counterparts.
If you select members for your remote team with that in mind, monitoring their productivity will no longer be such a big concern.