Posted by Robert Half on 17 November 2015
Does allowing employees to work from home help or hamper productivity? It’s how you manage that makes the difference.
Telecommuting, or working remotely, is incredibly convenient for employees and can benefit your company in ways you may not have considered. In the case of unpredictable weather conditions, such as the occasional haze in Singapore, typhoons in Hong Kong, or seasonal bouts of severe air pollution in Beijing, managing this flexibility well displays one of the many great benefits of telecommuting. However, many employers are resistant to the idea, worrying that their workers may be less productive when not at the office.
However, if managed well, telecommuting can increase productivity instead. Allowing workers more flexibility to meet their targets on their own could also help boost overall happiness among employees. If you’re still unconvinced, read on for tips and tricks to monitor your remote employees and ensure they are still as productive as ever.
Use the internet to your advantage
Even if you don’t have a sophisticated company-wide cloud system to collaborate on work, free online software like Google Drive is a good start. From there, you can review your remote employees’ work in real time and offer your insights and comments as needed. It also allows a few people to collaborate on the same project without needing to be physically present.
Set clear tasks
Rather than just leaving everyone to figure things out for themselves, set clear goals and tasks to be completed according to a deadline. Put up a chart where employees can indicate their works in progress so you can tell at a glance what needs to be done, and whose responsibility it is to do what. Label the tasks in order of priority level as you add them to the list.
Stay in contact
Skype conference calls are a great avenue for meetings to check up on your team and keep each other informed, but don’t overdo it – once or twice a week is usually more than enough. Meetings may digress into back-and-forth debates with no end in sight. Sometimes it may be more time-efficient to simply send out an e-mail, asking for everyone’s input.
With web-based chat programs widely available now like Telegram and Whatsapp, business chat groups can be set up to keep everyone on top of things, only during working hours of course.
Monitor, not micromanage
Give your employees the freedom to check their own work and submit it to you when they’re ready, rather than demanding constant updates. If you monitor their progress online, try to step in only when necessary, when you notice a major mistake or when someone is going in the wrong direction and needs to be steered back on track. Otherwise, frequent interruptions will only throw a wrench in productivity. You want your employees to be optimise their time on their tasks, not spending all of it time updating you.
Focus on work done, not time spent
You may find that the work that needs to be done is completed more efficiently by your workers than at the office. Many workers in the office tend to draw out their tasks to fit the time spent in the workplace. Telecommuting employees on the other hand, are mostly completing their work on their own time, allowing them to focus on other things.
Rather than griping about any extra free hours they might have, focus on the bottom line. If all the tasks have been completed, that’s always a good thing, and your employees have earned themselves a little more time that may have otherwise been spent unproductively at work.
It all comes down to trust.
If you’ve read everything and you’re still sceptical about your employees’ pulling their weight, perhaps telecommuting isn’t the problem, but underperformance is. A company culture where you need to be constantly looking over your employees’ shoulders to make sure they’re completing their work is unhealthy, and prevents employees from truly loving what they do. Accountability might be important, but so is trust. Reward employees who are responsible with their work, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results