Managing a Remote Workforce

By Suetta Miller, HR Generalist

Have you ever thought about using flextime in your company? Have you lost good talent to companies offering flextime as a benefit? Unsurprisingly, the growth of technology in the workplace has created a culture of workers who are more comfortable working remotely or telecommuting part time. Flextime can be characterized by a nonstandard work schedule with core set hours, a shortened work week, such as four ten-hour days with one day off or four eight and half hour days and a half day on Friday, or full-time and part-time telecommuting. Today, 60 percent of employers offer some type of flex as opposed to only 20 percent in 1996.

Remote work arrangements offer both benefits and disadvantages. One disadvantage most often cited by employers is that measuring productivity of remote workers is challenging. It is also sometimes necessary to set up additional network capabilities in order for employees to log in remotely. Finally, some employers have expressed concern over treating employees equally. Another challenge of managing remote workers is that some remote employees have reported feeling disengaged from their company’s culture. One way to enhance their engagement is by providing consistent and constructive feedback. Research says that constant feedback, as opposed to an annual performance review, and a more informal approach works better than something from the top down.

This may make remote working sound like an employer’s headache. But before you ditch the idea of flexibility, consider the advantages for not only the employees, but also the employers.

The benefits of having a flexible workplace program allow the employees to enjoy reduced stress, time and money saved due to lack of a commute and increased productivity as a result of fewer distractions in the office. Forty-three percent of employees cited flexibility of scheduling as the number one reason for the upward trend in remote working.

The benefits and advantages of a flexible workplace program for the employer are to increase organizational flexibility, improve employee attrition and widen the talent pool by eliminating the need for candidate relocation. Strategy should be the top reason why a company considers flexible arrangements. Why? Because flextime is considered one of the hottest benefits for today’s workers and aids in attracting and retaining top talent. And although it takes some getting used to, supervising remote workers is no more of a challenge than supervising in-office employees.

Supervisors should learn to reward work product, not presence, and training should be required for leaders to learn effective management of remote workforces. If you are interested in trying flexible work arrangements but still have a healthy skepticism, keep the following tips in mind:

Frequent feedback, daily communication, inclusion in team activities and office events and continued mentoring are all a part of a successful remote workforce. Treating remote workers just as you would in-office employees is the key to a successful program.