The topic of remote work has become a topic of hot debate lately with some companies seeing it as an investment that can pay off for employees and employers alike, while other companies like Yahoo have completely banned it as they found it to hurt productivity.

Ray O’Connor, the south-west regional manager of IDA Ireland says they are interested in remote working as it allows them to gain access to untapped talent and deliver jobs on a regional basis. As research has shown, home workers tend to deliver high productivity than their office-based colleagues and some IDA-client companies have already adopted a 100 percent remote workers policy e.g. Shopify who has a workforce larger than 300 people in Ireland. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that managing remote workers is very different to those that are based in the office, so here are 6 tips on how you can make remote workers succeed for your company.

1) Trial it with your current team

Remote work isn’t right for everyone. Some employees need a fixed daily routine, enjoy the office atmosphere, thrive off the relationships they build in person, or need a little more support than others to succeed. Recruiting and hiring people who can efficiently work remotely is a difficult task for any company, and it becomes harder when trialling it for the first time as there’s uncertainty about whether it will deliver results. Some companies have tackled this by first trialling it with a small number of existing team members to identify both the positive outcomes and potential pain points before adopting it on a wider scale within the organisation. Last year, HubSpot trialled a remote week for their marketing team. As their global expansion was resulting in more and more meetings happening across multiple time zones, they wanted to learn how to more effectively manage their remote employees and be empathetic to their situation.You can read about their experience here.

2) Set clear expectations from the start

A successful remote working relationship is built on trust and transparency. You need to discuss in detail with each employee the mutual expectations concerning working hours, deliverables and level of communication. Areas such as how and when you will check in with each other need to be agreed, along with what flexibility will be built into the employee’s schedule as people choose to work remotely primarily due to the perks it brings about. Do they need to start earlier in the morning as they may be offline in the afternoon to mind their kids? Will they be available for a weekly team meeting to discuss progress on larger projects? Defining these areas will ensure that from the outset, each side’s expectations are aligned with one another.

3) Ensure you communicate effectively

Frequent communication is essential when team members are working remotely. It can sometimes be easy to forget them in meetings and discussions due to not seeing them every day, but you need to keep them involved in all important conversations, projects and emails. Whether you make them part of a stand-up morning meeting by having them dial in, or schedule a weekly one-on-one meeting so that you can touch base regularly, remote workers will only be effective if you make them feel like part of the team. You also need to let them know that they can reach out any time they have questions or require feedback from the team.

4) Use collaboration tools

It’s important for remote workers to be able to work closely with the entire team even when they’re not based in the same office. The ability to check the progress being made on a project, what areas they’re responsible for, targets for the team and the option to ask questions and collaborate on specific tasks is of utmost importance. Managers also need visibility on what remote workers are working on in order to avoid any form of micromanagement by any unnecessary chasing up via email and telephone calls. Project management software such as Trello and Basecamp can be incredibly useful to remote teams, as well as document sharing tools like Google Docs and Dropbox which allow you to easily share files among team members.

Some options to consider:

  • Video conferencing: Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts
  • Instant communication: Hipchat, Slack
  • Project management: Basecamp, Asana, Trello
  • Shared docs: Office 365, Dropbox, Google Docs

5) Collaboration Time

It’s best to encourage remote team members to set working hours and stick to them, otherwise, they may end up working longer hours than they need to, which in turn, will reduce productivity and attention to detail. Also, without set working hours, it’s difficult to know at what times remote colleagues are contactable by email, instant communication or telephone. If the working hours of a remote team member is changing on a daily basis, it can make it incredibly difficult to schedule team meetings and to collaborate on large projects. From the beginning, the working hours need to be agreed by both the employer and employee, as well as having a shared calendar to block out times for catch ups, meetings and to collaborate on specific tasks.

6) Track performance, not time

Remote work is doomed from the beginning if you don’t trust employees to manage their time. While it may be tempting to expect remote team members to work the same hours as everyone else, which may be the case for team meetings, it can’t always be like that. You need to give remote workers some flexibility and judge them based on their performance like you should with your office-based employees. As long as projects are progressing at a satisfactory pace and the employee is meeting deadlines and targets, you need to ask yourself whether you’re uncomfortable with them starting work at 5:00am and finishing by 1:00pm? One of the perks of remote work is that it allows your team to work when they’re at the top of their game and are able to work at a time where they’re most energised. If your company is accepting of this level of flexibility then you’ll be able to maximise the efficiency of each member of staff working remotely. If not, this agreement will not last for very long.

If you have any other suggestions about how to make a remote workforce perform better for a company then let us know on Twitter – we would love to hear your thoughts!