It’s no secret that the trend toward using remote workers is littered with some doubts about the productivity and engagement of remote workers. People assume that if a worker isn’t watched and isn’t physically at the company location that they can’t or won’t perform to the standards of in office workers. This is both true and false. If you’re searching for a free online recruitment software system that you can trust in 2018, trust Recruiteze! Click here for a free trial.
The Truth About Employing Remote Workers
Companies brag about how hiring remote workers boosts productivity and there is data to back it up, but when recruiters hire remote workers and something goes amiss, the whole remote working trend takes a big hit in creditability. So, what’s the truth? Are remote workers more productive or less?
There are some hurdles in remote work. Because employees who work remotely are not physically present in the building and interacting with team members, communications can suffer. Any worker whether in the office or working remotely who feels undervalued will underperform. Sometimes management issues also cause illustrious productivity goals to be unmet because the structure just isn’t there to make it work. So, it is true that remote work can fail in the productivity department.
The falsity lies in assuming that because remote work is the variable that has been changed, and something doesn’t go as expected, the remoteness is surely to blame.
What makes remote work sometimes lead to low productivity and engagement are the same three things that will cause low productivity and engagement in any work setting: poor candidate choice, non-engaging management, and less-than-satisfactory communication.
Poor Candidate Choice
Any employee, whether working in the office or remotely, will need to be a good cultural fit and have the right skills. With remote workers, it is also necessary to select someone who is good at managing their time and easy to reach. Just because someone says they can do something doesn’t mean they really can, as it is with any other criteria recruiters look for in candidates. Avoid making a bad hire at all costs. Using our online recruitment software system can help. Click here for a free trial of Recruiteze.
In office work is rife with productivity and engagement issues. Hiring remote workers is not going to magically override that, in fact, they may suffer even more greatly from the same factors. They don’t benefit from the pros of in person teamwork, so communication issues can be more detrimental. If a manager is difficult to work with, remote workers may only deal with that one individual. If a structure is not put into place to make team member communications quick and efficient, remote workers can be completely held up because their work may depend on communications.
If the corporate culture doesn’t provide quality positive and negative feedback, that is going to hurt remote workers also. Being out of the office doesn’t mean corporate culture doesn’t affect them nor does it mean they don’t require feedback to know how to provide their best work and to feel that their work is appreciated. Feeling unnoticed and unappreciated is one of the most common reasons for productivity and engagement to suffer for in office or remote workers. Again, remote workers may suffer from this even more than in office workers because they are not physically present to be noticed. Managers may also assume remote workers don’t need feedback, because they are supposed to be self-sufficient. While remote workers do have to manage their own time, they still need to be integrated into the workflow in order to produce quality results. For instance, a hand is very useful, but it must be attached to the body to work.
As has been danced all around in the previous paragraph, communication with remote workers is critical. It’s all that makes up the relationship between managers and employees. So that means it represents the entirety of the corporate culture for the remote worker, but slow, poor, or erroneous communications can also completely shutdown their ability to perform their own tasks. This gets exponentially more harrowing when the remote worker is working directly with a team. Communication between multiple remote workers and the management team must be sufficient or productivity and engagement will suffer. Just like with other resources, if crucial information is not available, work cannot be performed or not completed optimally.
Tips to Ensure Productivity and Engagement in Remote Workers
Don’t just hire a few remote workers and assume they’ll take care of themselves. No amount of self-motivation can make up for ineffective management. Plan if and how they’ll be working with other employees. Where possible, consider them in corporate culture, feedback, and assessment processes.
#2. Hire the Best Remote Workers
All remote workers are not equal. Some effectively manage their time and others don’t. Some take instruction well or need very little instruction. Some communicate well. Remote workers also need to be a good fit for the company culture. No, they may not be physically in the location, but they need to appreciate the goals of the company and understand and like the management style.
As with any other worker, screen remote workers for the skills you need and the particular skills that a remote worker needs like communication and self-motivation. Screen them based on their communications during the hiring process and consider trial projects before a permanent hire.
#3. Fix In Office Problems Too
Productivity and engagement issues often result from wider problems than simply remote work. Trying something new is going to be a trial-and-error thing, so some hiccups may occur while trying to figure things out, but productivity and engagement shouldn’t be an in office or remote work issue because their roots have so little to do with proximity or location.
In a previous post on remote work controversy, we described contrasting points about proximity and productivity centered around innovation. Sometimes teams working face-to-face perform better, and sometimes this proximity breeds more procrastination and less teamwork. The factors controlling productivity are clearly more complicated than where an employee is located.
We summed it up, “The only way to make sense of these contrasting concepts is to refocus our attention on how a team is managed.”
Dom Price wrote for MSN Money,
“There are perfectly good reasons to keep everyone co-located. But collaboration isn’t one of them.
That’s because collaboration doesn’t require co-location. If it did, no company would ever expand beyond a single office site. But expand we do. And the level of interaction between offices is only increasing.”
Work on company-wide engagement policies and improve feedback, and most of any productivity and engagement issues will be resolved.
#4. Prioritize Communication
Communication is 100% crucial to remote work. If a company is hiring remote workers, optimizing communication should be their top priority in managing them. Find the simplest, most real-time platform and method to communicate for the company’s needs. Consider chats. Incentivize the use of the communication method by requiring that team members do all communicating in the platform. Make sure both the workers and the managers uphold their end of the communication bargain. Again, give feedback so the remote worker can quickly optimize their work.
In that prior post of ours that was mentioned earlier, we told how Cisco sees success with remote workers because of communication,
“Part of their success comes from a healthy dose of communication and collaboration as they report that over 60% of their remote workers’ time ‘is spent collaborating and communicating with others through its technology.’”
“Note several things about that statement, there is communication, as well as collaboration, and they are using a dedicated system to streamline idea and information flow.”
We also explained the single platform concept I mentioned above,
“You should also consider a virtual gathering place rather than relying on email. A single good communication tool for a team helps recreate much of that in person, same time, streamlined information-sharing environment. Trello is a great place for many people to work on, mark progress, and collaborate on the same project. Salesforce’s Chatter is also recommended for remote teamwork.”
#5. Restructure Expectations
Consider a results-oriented approach rather than a time-based method of tracking progress. Productivity and engagement in the office and when working remotely both benefit from a results-oriented approach because it focuses on what is achieved. This mindset inspires workers to put their all into what they are doing because it matters. When hours spent is most important, it gives workers the mindset that if they’re sitting there, they’re doing their job. That sounds boring and depressing just reading it. But if an employee knows they can invest in the job, produce results, and call it a day, that is exciting.
A results-oriented approach also helps employees see and measure real success, much like gamification. The accumulation of something is satisfying and motivating.
While this strategy helps all employees, it is particularly useful in remote work. It is well suited to the type of tasks most remote workers perform. It also provides an easier management relationship. And a results-oriented approach helps employers and employees see more benefits of remote work in the work-life balance. If an employee can achieve the desired results in ⅔ of the time, then why do they need to waste the extra hours sitting there to prove their worth?
Switching to a results-oriented approach will not only feel much more rewarding for all involved, it’s pretty much guaranteed to produce better work, faster.
Some people assume remote workers are going to slack off because they’re at home or no one is watching. Others do actually see some productivity decline when using remote workers. It doesn’t have to be that way. Improving management strategies companywide, strategizing remote work efforts, prioritizing communication, and switching to a results-oriented approach are all ways to ensure productivity and engagement in remote workers.
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