Leveraging remote expertise

If you employ remote workers, or you want to extend the opportunity for employees to work remotely, no doubt you have reservations.

There are many benefits in employing partial and full time remote workers.

  • You have expanded access to expertise and talent that local markets often cannot provide.
  • You can expand your reach to serve customers in local markets of remote workers.
  • By learning how to work effectively with your own workforce remotely, you will learn how to better work with customers remotely. Further expanding the reach of your opportunities.
  • Remote workers are freed from the shackles of arduous daily commutes.
    • This can have a remarkable impact on morale. Commuting adds an incredible amount of mental and physical stress.
    • They have full access to their kitchen so they don’t have to go out to eat every day. They’ll be healthier in the long run.
  • You can save a significant amount of money investing in unnecessary office space.
  • Remote workers can avoid many of the distractions and interruptions of office work.

So how do you avoid your reservations?

First, make sure employees can handle the responsibility of working remotely. Ask them directly and take their word for it. If you don’t trust them, you have bigger problems. Some people can’t handle working at home, and they’ll usually tell you directly.

If someone asks to work remotely, jump at the opportunity. When someone you trust expresses interest in remote work, it’s an opportunity to improve your organization and the individual. It’s a win-win opportunity.

Talk about reasonable concerns, but think before you speak. Use this article as a guide of what concerns are irrational. If you speak prematurely, it’s likely to come across as a sign of a lack of trust.

Don’t ever mention or imply it’s a privilege. Work is work, regardless where it happens. Employees can be just as effective remotely as in an office. In fact, there are plenty of opportunities to be more effective remotely. Effectiveness is a function of working with individuals you trust, not where they work.

Implying it’s a privilege will lead to feelings of guilt. As if somehow they’ll need to make up for it in extra hours. For dedicated employees, this can lead to burn out. Burn out decreases effectiveness.

And, remote workers will likely feel guilty without you ever saying a word. We live in a culture of micro management and enslavement to the 40+ hour work week. As if effort alone is value.

You may need to go out of your way to make sure the employee doesn’t feel like it’s a privilege. And make sure they don’t feel guilty.

Keep an eye on how much they work. Don’t ask for time cards, just watch for indications that they’re working too much. Too much work leads to burnout.

Likely, you’re wondering how you ensure they actually work, or pull their weight. If you can’t trust someone to contribute, they shouldn’t be a part of your organization. Regardless where they work.

For everyone else, focus on results. Don’t demand a timesheet. Timesheets are a waste of time. Timesheets encourage workers to think time is valuable. This mentality will lead remote workers to put in extra hours thinking it helps the organization.

Take the opportunity to video conference weekly with them. Discuss what they’ve accomplished and how it relates to improving the work your organization does. Discuss what they might be able to accomplish in upcoming weeks and months.

Allow remote workers whatever flexibility they desire, so long as they deliver results. It’s win-win positive karma to let them set their own schedule.

Never ask for extra work because they no longer have a commute. Time is not value.

Discourage others from implying it’s a privilege. In fact, encourage workers in offices to work remotely to give them the perspective necessary to respect remote workers too. Who knows, maybe someday everyone can work remotely.

Take advantage of opportunities in local markets of remote workers. This will give the remote workers a sense of an extra way they can contribute to the organization. This will help dissuade any notion of remote work being a privilege.

Pay for their home office needs. Don’t wait for them to ask, make the offer. It’s absolutely ludicrous not to. Do you want them working with sub par Internet access? Do you want them working with sub par equipment? Do you want them working with poor audio and video conferencing equipment and services? Regularly check in to see what you can do to improve their home office. You would provide this for anyone that worked in an office, hopefully. Why wouldn’t you provide it for remote workers?

Also, provide for professional space locally as needed. They may need to meet with customers as they reach out locally. You don’t want customers meeting your remote workers at home. There are plenty of opportunities to rent a meeting room for a day. Make sure the remote workers are aware of your willingness to support this.

Go out of your way to make sure they don’t feel isolated. Use both audio and video conferencing to include them. Touch base at least three times a week. And, take advantage of opportunities to touch base locally. When in town, visit.

This guidance is a two way street. If you’re a remote worker and others in your organization are failing to support you, follow the guidance above to get back on track.

Here are a few tips for remote workers:

  • Be responsible, deliver results.
  • Don’t feel guilty. If you do, get counseling or talk about it. It’s not healthy.
  • Don’t overwork yourself.
  • Speak up.
  • Help your organization reach new markets in your area.
  • Take advantage of a flexible schedule to maximize both personal and professional goals. It’s a win-win for both you and your organization.
  • Make sure your home office is conducive to work. If you don’t have the right equipment and services, speak up.
  • If you use video conferencing, make sure nothing obscene or offensive is visible.
  • If you use audio conferencing, be conscientious of background noise (kids, spouses, pets). Don’t take calls from the bathroom.
  • When you’re not on a conference call, crank up the music. Turn on the TV for some background noise. Use your space to motivate yourself.
  • Call people when you need to communicate. Instant messaging is a waste of time. If it can wait, send an email. If it can’t, call. You’ll feel less isolated if you speak with others regularly.
  • Be intentional about touching base with others, don’t expect them to call you.
  • Be intentional about connecting in person when you’re in town.
  • Encourage and help others in the organization make the leap to remote work to improve the work your organization does.