More people work from home now than at any other point in history. Part of this is due to the pandemic, and part of it has to do with the progression of technology. There are many benefits that can be obtained by letting employees telecommute. However, telecommuting can go wrong due to the lack of direct in-person supervision and communication. To help, below are some strategies small businesses can use to better manage remote employees.
Determine What Work Can Be Performed Remotely
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when letting employees work from home occurs when the work in question really can’t be performed competently or efficiently outside of the office in the first place. If a person’s job requires them to be in constant contact with management, that person is more than likely better off being in the office. However, other jobs do not have that requirement. Managing the company data or a website, for example, is certainly something that can be competently done away from the office. All the necessary communication regarding that work can be done via telephone, e-mail, or instant messaging.
Consider Cyber Security Concerns
One of the biggest downsides of having employees work from home is that doing so lessens your ability to ensure high standards of cybersecurity are maintained as employees do their work. If your employees must access the company network from home to complete their work, cybersecurity should be of the utmost concern to you. The possibility of hackers, cybercriminals, and other malicious actors using your employees’ poor security set-ups as an attack point to gain entrance into your network is actually quite high. To solve this problem, try to implement strategies such as using a VPN, virtual private network, to encrypt remote access to the company network. The best software license managers know that third-party applications used by remote employees should be limited to prevent intrusions into the company network. Only allow remote workers to use applications that are designed to work with your VPN protocol.
Maintain the Proper Level of Communication
One of the dangers of allowing employees to telecommute is that meaningful communication between those workers and others in the organization they should be communicating with on a regular basis will be cut off. This can negatively affect the work product of those employees and cause them to feel isolated and thus apathetic about the business’s performance. Instead, make sure that remote employees do communicate with both managers and other employees both in their department and other departments on a regular basis. Actual “facetime” via live streaming is more important than you may realize. A lot of the effectiveness of communication comes from subtle cues that can only be detected when you see the other person speaking to you. Words alone are not always enough.
Provide the Proper Collaboration Tools
In response to the pandemic, 88 percent of employers started allowing employees to telecommute to perform specific kinds of work. One downside of that is that it’s much harder for a team to collaborate on a shared project if they are not all in the same room. Solve this issue by investing in collaboration software that will be made available to the important teams in your office. Such software should allow multiple employees to communicate and contribute work regarding a shared project via a digital workspace. This way, progress on the project can be made in a more natural fashion. Without the digital workspace provided by the collaboration software, moving a project forward with remote employees can be much more cumbersome and difficult due to the communication barriers that naturally exist when the members of a team are physically separated.
Track Remote Employees’ Progress
Another possible pitfall of having remote employees is that management may simply lose track of their work product. This can happen quite easily when direct supervision is removed by the process of telecommuting. Instead, institute a more structured performance review process that evaluates different benchmarks of success for individual employees and their work product whether they work in the office or from home. Formalizing the work schedule of remote employees is also a good idea. It will help enforce the idea they are still on the clock and should not waste company time even when direct supervision is lessened.
Allowing employees to work from home has many benefits. It can slash costs and increase efficiency. It may also make your business safer during the pandemic. Still, there are also many ways that telecommuting can harm your company. Use the strategies outlined above to lessen those possible negative impacts.
The guest post is written by Sheryl Wright.