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6 Ways to Better Manage Remote Workers

Posted on 6.25.2013

More than 80% of working Americans do at least some of their work from a remote location. If you own an online business with a work-from-home staff, managing those employees can be challenging. Granting a certain level of independence can lead to remarkable productivity at a low cost, but with the wrong employees, keeping them performing at a high level can be difficult without a certain degree of face-to-face supervision. If you find yourself struggling to manage your remote work staff, follow these tips to help you adjust:

1. Communicate More By engaging your workers in constant communicaiton, you reinforce the fact that a boss is monitoring their progress. If they have difficulty budgeting their time and following through with deadlines, this is sure to help kick them into shape. You can also you're your staff engaged and interested in their work by communicating goals and milestones to them regularly. Remote workers can be extremely productive, but if they feel they're being left out of the loop, that productivity could decrease.

2. Set Deadlines, Even if They're Not Needed Even if you assign projects without hard deadlines, manufacture some along the way to keep your employees on track. If a major project is due in a month, break the work up into four or eight segments and assign deadlines for each one to ensure steady progress that you can monitor and evaluate along the way. By doing this, you're setting a bar for productivity and ensuring your remote workers better manage their time and ultimately perform at a higher level.

3. Ensure They Have the Right Tools Your remote employees may be struggling to perform because they don't have the right tools for the job. Allow them access to a paid account with Google Apps for Business allowing them to use the calendar and chat functions, or any one of a number of other paid software tools that can increase organization and productivity. Skype is also an excellent tool for streamlining communication, and DropBox is an efficient cloud computing platform.

Remote workers are saving your business significant money on office supplies, energy expenses, and computer upgrades, so investments in proper software and tools shouldn't be ignored.

4. Utilize Performance Reviews Every employer should conduct regular performance reviews of staff, but it's especially crucial to regularly review your remote workers.

You may be able to spot flaws or inefficiencies with in-office personnel and provide them with immediate feedback, but you don't have this luxury with remote workers. Conduct reviews with your staff every quarter, and if possible arrange to do them in person. If your office space isn't suitable, suggest doing it over coffee or lunch, or, if those are not options, a virtual performance review can work fine. The important thing is that your remote workers clearly understand their performance level and that they're made aware of areas that may need improvement.

5. Provide Superb IT Support Your remote employees are likely using their own hardware for work-related functions. This saves you tremendous up-front costs, but it can also put you in a precarious position. If your workers do encounter problems, you want to make sure you can help resolve them quickly. Providing IT support is a favor of sorts to your staff, but also a quid pro quo that can help ensure you won't experience significant downtime due to technical issues.

6. Adapt Your Management Style If you've been accustomed to a more hands-on management style, you're going to have to adjust. First, you need to re-orient yourself to focus more on results rather than on process. Remember, your remote workers may be getting a lot of their work done during non-traditional hours, so even though they may not be available during normal business hours doesn't mean they're not accomplishing tasks. If you've hired the right people, work ethic shouldn't be an issue. Once they show you they can be trusted, accept that and enjoy the results.

Final Thoughts Remote workers represent a growing segment of today's workforce, and it's only going to get bigger. Employees who work from home enjoy a wide variety of benefits, which means that they can easily end up being some of your best performers. It's up to you, though, to continually motivate, evaluate, and oversee all aspects of their work - even if you can't stand over their shoulders.

What additional ideas do you have to better manage remote workers?

About the Author: David Bakke is a small business owner and contributing team member of the popular online personal finance resource, Money Crashers.

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