Smart Ways to Handle Remote Workers

Given the power and accessibility of technology, many companies have been allowing employees to work from home for years — either some or all of the time. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated this trend, as many businesses closed offices and facilities and some employees are still working from home.

Working from home isn’t possible for every job, but it’s a good fit for many occupations. For employees, remote work eliminates commuting time and expense, and may mitigate childcare expenses. For employers, having fewer on-site employees could mean smaller (that is, less expensive) work spaces and lower utility costs.

But along with the benefits come challenges: It’s arguably more difficult to supervise off-site employees, let alone determine how much supervision they need. Businesses often need to revisit and revise their approaches to measuring productivity, nurturing loyalty and elevating morale.

Whether your company has already had employees working from home for a while, or you’ve had to take the plunge during the pandemic, here are four tips to help you make the experience better for everyone:

Allowing an individual with a disability to work at home may be a form of “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

1. Meet “face to face” regularly. Feelings of isolation can naturally develop when each and every employee is working from a different location. Urge managers to hold regularly scheduled team meetings and one-on-one calls (either video or phone) with employees.

Remember: Off-site employees should never be relegated to “out of sight, out of mind” status.

2. Adapt working hours. An employee who works from home or on the road may be unable to function effectively with traditional office hours. To the extent feasible, let work schedules accommodate employees’ respective needs. This doesn’t mean you need to compromise attendance and productivity, only that you should try to adapt. Set up times when the employee must be available during normal office hours to field calls from staff, customers or suppliers. Establish timeliness standards for responding to telephone calls, e-mail and other correspondence.

3. Be responsive to contact. Interaction between managers and employees is a vital part of the normal work experience. Employees who can no longer bump into managers in the hallway, or drop by their offices, need to know that these connections can just as easily be made via phone calls, emails, and text or instant messages.

4. Develop clear benchmarks. Without the daily interaction of the office, an off-site employee can easily drift away from the usual performance standards. You may have to provide more detailed instructions for each project to avoid misunderstandings. Also, be sure to have a strong performance evaluation process in place that’s followed consistently throughout the year.

Although technology is making the concept of off-site work easier to embrace than ever, and the pandemic has made it a safety necessity, there are still pitfalls to be avoided. Identify the distinctive challenges that your company faces and address them systematically.