The workforce landscape is dramatically different today compared to just 10 years ago. Some estimates note telecommuting has increased by as much as 79% between 2005 and 2012. As a result, 37% of U.S. workers now telecommute at least a few days a month.
Why are so many people working outside of the office?
For one, technology continues to make telecommuting easier and more efficient. New research has also shown that workers who telecommute from home are happier, and happy employees are more positive and productive.
But that isn’t the only benefit for businesses. Companies are no longer bound by geographic boundaries and can expand their pool of job applicants to find the best talent. They can also reduce operation costs and overhead. The catch is finding a way to effectively managing a team that includes office workers, remote workers, out-of-town contractors and managers that are on the go.
People are the most important asset of any business. But they need clear communication and support to get work done and maximize productivity. With the right tools, it’s actually possible for remote workers to feel more connected and engaged than they do in the office.
Why a Cloud-Based Management Platform is a Must-Have
More and more companies have a growing need for a cloud-based management platform that can be accessed by any team member anywhere in the world. This one tool can bring everyone together in a single place where they can collaborate, and you can keep track of their work.
HCM platforms are getting more robust as a result of the workforce becoming more dynamic and dispersed. Today, programs are being developed with mobile work in mind. Some of the key features include:
- Project management tools
- Task assignment
- Instant messaging
- Workspace and conference room scheduling
- HR functions for handling new hires and terminations
- Time clock for tracking work and proficiency
- Payroll processing
- Recruitment and application tracking
- Business intelligence and analytics
- Security tools such as facial recognition
- Real-time data and reporting
An interesting effect of remote work is that it makes employees work harder to connect with other team members. Knowing that you won’t be working alongside others increases the urge to make meaningful connections in other ways. That means it’s very likely a cloud-based HCM platform will be readily adopted by workers in and out of the office.
Touch Base With Each Employee Regularly
Whether employees work with managers at the office or on their own from home, getting face-time is important. Ironically, managers often fail to regularly touch base with the employees that work in the office. It’s a phenomenon some have dubbed “proximity complacency."
It’s not uncommon for remote workers to get more one-on-one time with managers, simply because the managers feel it’s necessary to check up on people who are working remotely. Most employees actually welcome the opportunity to talk with managers. It makes them feel more connected to the company and increases engagement.
Try to schedule a short meeting with each remote employee at least once a week. Even if it’s just a quick five or 10-minute call, the direct communication helps to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward together. As ex-tech executive turned sportsman Neil Blumenfield stated when discussing who to hire, “never hiring prima donnas. I wanted people who were ambitious and talented but who were truly team players.” Even with the best communication protocols in place, having a team that will roll up their sleeves and be accountable for their work is the recipe for success whether you’re in the office or working remote.
One way that remote workers are staying connected is with video conferencing. It’s the virtual solution for face-to-face meetings even when you’re miles away. However, the real beauty of video conferencing is the high level of engagement. The person on the other end is your sole focus, which makes it near impossible to multitask or get distracted.
Video conferencing can easily be done over today’s smartphones, but tools can also be integrated with some mobile management platforms. This gives you another way to communicate without ever having to leave the shared platform.
Face-time, whether it’s in person or over an internet connection, has the power to strengthen office relationships. Investing in this type of technology gives employees a powerful communication tool and can save your company money that would otherwise be spent on traveling to meetings.
Set and Explain Expectations
An essential part of communication with all employees is setting expectations. For remote workers that have little to no direct supervision, understanding expectations is even more crucial.
Each employee should fully understand what their job entails, what they are responsible for and the level of performance that is expected. Deadlines need to be set within your project management system and noted for each task, milestone and project. Employees also need to know the chain of command so that they can ask questions, pass along information and hand off projects to the next person.
Effectively communicating with employees may be less straightforward now that more people are working outside of the office, but there are also more tools at our disposal. Choose the right ones and there’s a good chance you’ll see a boost in productivity across the board.