If you live in an area with heavy traffic (L.A., anyone?) remote employment may be a good solution for you. Having the flexibility to live and work from anywhere in the world has become a highly sought-after job perk. Among the non-self-employed population, working from home has grown by 115% since 2005, and 2.8% of the workforce now work from home at least half the time.
Remote employees could be costly to companies, but with proper expectations, clear communication, and face time, remote employees can improve a company’s bottom line. RewardExpert spoke with Justin Hale, Leadership Trainer and Content SME for VitalSmarts, one of the top leadership training companies, to find out how organizations can properly manage remote employees, while still allowing them the freedom they desire.
Companies Benefit by Hiring Remote Employees
By 2020, almost half of the total workforce in the United States will be made up of Millennials. What do Millennials value the most? Travel and experiences. This trend combined with the surge in telecommuting makes it increasingly important for companies to understand how to best manage remote employees and how to make them feel they are a valued part of a team.
According to a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, employers often spend six to nine months of an employee’s salary to locate and train a new replacement. By focusing on connecting with remote employees and prioritizing these relationships, managers can help them feel more included and feel like a part of the team, which will help to reduce employee turnover rate.
“The key to ensuring your company doesn’t lose money by hiring remote employees is to make sure they are the right fit,” explained Justin Hale of VitalSmarts. One way organizations can ensure their remote employees are satisfied in their job is by sending out company reviews, which are typically only sent to in-office employees. Another way to retain employees is by always including them in company meetings and asking for their feedback during those meetings.
Top 4 Financial Benefits
With today’s technology and so many companies now having a global reach, it makes sense that working from home has grown 10x faster than the rest of the workforce. Here are the top four financial benefits for hiring remote:
- Larger physical reach. For example, utilizing a remote employee where clients are located helps the company because they don’t need to spend money for in-office employees to travel and the remote employee is already familiar with the area and the culture. It’s also very likely that they already have established, meaningful relationships with other organizations in that area.
- Less overhead expenses. Utilizing remote employees means less office space and equipment is needed. There may be some instances where remote employees may need a desk or laptop/desktop, but the majority of the working force already owns a computer and, if needed, can work at their kitchen table or a local coffee shop if they wanted to. Less overhead also means more cash flow as numerous small costs are avoided, such as monthly parking passes.
- Access to a much larger talent pool. This one is a no-brainer. One-third of executives feel the top contributor to a bad hire is poor skills match. Some positions remain open for multiple months because the talent they are looking for isn’t available in their local region. By opening the position to remote employees, organizations are almost guaranteed to find the perfect fit for the company and culture.
- Higher engagement. Remote workers often report feeling more satisfied with their job and happier overall when working from home. Additional studies have found that 77% of remote workers get more done due to eliminating their commute, and less distractions from unnecessary meetings, noisy co-workers, and chit-chat.
Tips for Managing Remote Employees
“The success of remote work all boils down to clarity and connection,” Hale said. The top seven tips for successfully managing remote employees are:
- Frequent and consistent check-ins
- Face-to-face time
- Excellent communication
- Explicit expectations
- Prioritizing relationships
“One of the biggest reasons why a lot of these remote employees are not as productive or living up to expectations is because they have a misunderstanding from the very beginning of what their expectation was,” he said. This can happen in two ways; expectations are shared via email, which leaves room for interpretation, and by balancing text and face-to-face communication. Hale rated the following forms of communication from most effective, to least effective:
- Face-to-face, or in-person meetings. When remote employees are hired on, from the very beginning, the manager should let the employee know when they expect them to be in the office throughout the year, such as company events, conferences and quarterly meetings.
- Skype or Facetime. With today’s technology, there really is no excuse for not taking advantage of these tools to improve communication. Face time allows managers to see specific nuances and identify body language cues from the employee.
- Phone call. This one is the most traditional form of employee/employer communication, but with the rise in remote employees, the first two communication methods should be favored.
- Text messaging. This should be a very last resort as it’s the most informal mode of communication, masking all vocal and visual cues. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, so when using this form, managers must be extremely clear and explicit in their directions and expectations.
When dealing with remote employees, Hale goes on to explain that it’s necessary to follow up with an email after a phone call detailing specifics and expectations. “There is no honor in being a manager where the employee must try to read your mind. There’s nothing special about that,” he said. The bottom line is that managers can never be too explicit or too precise in their feedback, direction and expectations.
“With the improvement of technology, flights and travel becoming easier, it’s now almost impossible for some of your employees to not work remote,” he added. It’s a win-win for both organizations and employees when the right hire is made, and employees are given a sense of “team.”