While remote work at one point was a rarity for companies, that has changed dramatically in recent history. Studies done by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom show that, as of June 2020, 42% of the labor force in the United States is working from home full-time. Though those numbers have likely dropped a bit since then with people returning to work, there is no denying that a large population of the American workforce will continue to work from home.
If your company is one such company that has decided to allow employees to work remotely either full-time or just a few hours a week, you must have processes and systems in place that allow things to run smoothly with your remote employees. Without things properly set up, remote working can get complicated.
To help you successfully navigate the new-to-you remote world, we have created this guide. In it, you will find all you need to know about remote employees.
What Are Remote Employees?
Remote employees are people that work outside their company’s physical office. For some people, this may mean their home. In the last year, many people have transformed their homes into fully functional home offices that serve as a great place for them to do their work.
For other people, working remotely may mean being a digital nomad that works from somewhere other than their home-–potentially a hotel or coffee shop in a foreign country! Whatever the employee’s choice of location, them working remotely means them not working from the company office.
You can either opt to have all of your employees work remotely or just those in a certain department that isn’t required to be in the office every day.
The Basics of Remote Employees
Remote employees are very different from employees that work in your office. Thus, to find success in allowing your employees to work remotely, there are some key things you need to focus on.
In particular, providing support for your remote employees increases the likelihood that your company finds success in allowing remote employee options.
Set Up Daily Check-Ins
To make sure you and your remote employees are on the same page, it is important to set up a daily call, whether it be via the phone or Zoom. This can be a one-on-one call for those employees of yours who are more independent and doing their own projects. Or if you have a team working remotely, you can do team calls to support their collaboration.
Regardless of how you opt to do these check-ins, it is imperative that they happen every day at the same time. This not only ensures all things are going smoothly and that your employees understand what is expected of and needed from them. But it also ensures that your remote employees know they have an opportunity to communicate with you any questions or concerns they have about their work.
Create Multiple Communication Channels
Some people assume that when working remotely, email is enough to get the job done. That is an incorrect assumption. Because remote workers do not have the motivation, inspiration, and connection of colleagues around them in the office, that motivation, inspiration, and connection need to be created elsewhere. And email is really, really bad at doing that.
In order to simulate the office environment as much as possible with remote workers, it is important to bring in other communication channels such as video conferencing. This is as close to a face-to-face meeting as one gets when working remotely and comes with all sorts of benefits:
- It encourages connections
- It encourages a company culture
- It allows for visual cues that create mutual knowledge
- It helps reduce the feeling of isolation that can happen with remote employees
- It is useful for complicated conversations since it feels more personal than a phone call or email
In addition to video conferencing, you may want to have a communication platform such as Slack. Platforms like this are ideal for conversations that are not as heavy and formal and are not as time-sensitive as well.
Slack helps to give employees a way to communicate with each other and create a virtual connection since remote workers do not have a physical connection.
Optimize Meeting Length and Frequency
One of the biggest complaints about many workers switching to remote is that they feel they spend the entire day in Zoom meetings. Keep in mind the saying, “that was a meeting that could have been an email,” and do what you can to ensure your employees don’t say that about your meetings.
Don’t force Zoom meetings just for the sake of having a meeting. Think about whether it is actually something that needs to be handled via video conferencing, or whether it is something that can be left to email.
And if you determine it is something that necessitates a video call, try to keep those video calls short and to the point so your remote employees have a chance to do their actual work.
4 Tools to Improve Remote Employees
You, your company, and your employees stand to benefit quite a bit from the introduction of remote work. However, those benefits won’t show unless you create the right environment for your remote employees to thrive.
One way to do that is with the introduction of technology into their remote setup. Here is a list of the tools we think will help improve your remote situation.
Having a fully functional human resources department in your company is vital to the success and happiness of your employees, and thus your company. This may not seem as important for remote employees, when in fact it becomes even more important with employees who are not in the office.
Why is that?
Because these employees are not as connected to the company culture and environment as they would be if working from the office. Thus, things can slip through the cracks.
To keep that from happening, you need to implement HR software into your company. There are numerous options for this type of software, but the one we recommend most is BambooHR.
This software is designed for small and medium-sized businesses and simplifies many processes for business owners and HR departments including:
- Company calendar
- Employee records
- Benefit tracking
- Time off management
- Applicant tracking system (ATS)
- Company branding
- Advanced HR reporting
- Tailored workflows and approvals
The focus on this HR software is the employees, which will make yours very happy. The interface of the software is straightforward and easy to learn, so your remote employees won’t stress about struggling through it.
In addition to the desktop software, Bamboo HR also has a mobile app that both you and your employees will love, in addition to your HR administrators.
A free 7-day trial of BambooHR is available for you to see if it works for your company. The pricing options beyond that require contacting the company.
One of the most important parts of having a company is paying your employees. And if your employees aren’t in the office to remind you about payroll, and aren’t in the office to collect paper paychecks, things may get complicated.
However, by taking the step to make your company more future-forward and allowing your employees to be remote, you should also implement payroll software to help with this crucial piece of your company.
To aid you in payroll for your remote employees, we suggest investing in Gusto. Gusto simplifies several things for you including:
- Automatically files local, state, and federal taxes
- Integrates with Quickbooks, Xero, Clover, TSheets, and more
- Allows you to manage health insurance
- Allows you to manage employee benefit options
- Helps you manage compliance for HIPAA, COBA, Department of Labor, IRS, ACA, and ERISA
Gusto offers a few different pricing options. First, they have a plan for businesses that only work with 1099 contactors. This allows you to pay $6/month/person to pay those contractors. In addition to that, here are the other Gusto options:
- Core. $19/month + $6/person
- Complete. $39/month + $12/person
- Concierge. $149/month + $12/person
One of the biggest struggles for remote employees is staying on task. While working at home or in an environment other than the office, you open up the potential for a lot more distractions. Your employees may have kids at home, pets, and other things that can take attention away from their work.
That’s where an application such as Asana comes in. The purpose of this app is to help your team organize, track, and manage their work.
Asana has boards that let you see where things are in the workflow and allow you and your remote employees to work through the different stages of a project quickly and easily. It also lets you set priorities and deadlines, as well as share details and assign tasks.
Some of the other features of this program include:
- Activity feed
- Custom calendars and views
- Automatic updates to email
- Notifications and reminders
- Real-time updates
- Task tracking
- Project permissions
- Task comments
- Goals, priorities, and due dates
- Gantt charts
Asana has a free version, Basic, that offers limited features. The paid versions are priced as follows:
- Premium. $10.99/month, billed annually
- Business. $24.99/month, billed annually
Google Workspace (Formerly GSuite)
If your company shares documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more, then you may want to consider getting Google Workspace. This platform was built to solve problems and help teams be more productive. It offers a range of different features that would be a big benefit to you and your remote employees.
Here are some top features:
- Gmail for custom business email
- Docs for word processing
- Meet for video and voice conferencing
- Sheets for spreadsheets
- Chat for team messaging
- Slides for presentation building
- Forms for survey building
- Sites for building websites
- Drive for cloud storage
Google Workspace offers several different packages that range in prices and features:
- Business Starter. $6/month/user
- Business Standard (most popular). $12/month/user
- Business Plus. $18/month/user
- Enterprise. Call for pricing.
Tricks for Working Successfully with Remote Employees
It can feel scary to navigate the management of remote employees. You need to ensure that they are productive, engaged, and succeed for themselves and the company, without actually seeing them do their work.
There is much more to working with remote employees than simply giving them a video conferencing platform and assuming that replaces the office environment. You need to be aware of how the environment is completely different not only physically but also mentally for your remote employees.
Here are some tricks you can use to make the remote situation a good one for everyone.
If you are used to a strict 8-5 or 9-5 work schedule with a one-hour lunch break, you are going to struggle with the idea of remote employees. The key to the success of having your employees work from somewhere other than the office is flexibility. Requiring full availability, or all work to be done, during business hours, rarely works well.
You must allow your employees to adjust their schedules, especially if they are dealing with the complications of children at home while working, too. Whether your employees put in their hours late at night or in the wee hours of the morning needs to matter less to you. Instead, just make sure the work is done well and on time.
Flexibility does not only apply to the schedule and hours worked, but also to the changing of strategies to achieve goals. There needs to be set goals and plans with your remote employees that do not change, but the way they go about achieving them may look a bit different than you expect, and that is important for you to accept.
Track Their Progress
Unlike an office setting, you can’t just pop by your remote employees’ desks to see how things are going. And you don’t want to be calling or emailing them all the time to see where they are at with their work. Instead, find other ways to track their progress, such as Asana. This helps lower your stress about where projects are in the pipeline and whether your employees are truly getting their work done.
Keep in mind that just because you can’t physically see your remote employees doing their work doesn’t mean they aren’t working.
Make Yourself Available
Though there is a slew of benefits that goes along with working from home, oftentimes remote employees feel isolated and somewhat disoriented when working from elsewhere. This is especially true if they are used to an office environment.
And this is where your company can make a difference for them in this new way of working. Make yourself available to your remote employees to ensure they know that you are there for them and that they are not stranded on a deserted island alone.
Maintain an open-door policy for your remote workers, and allow them to reach out to you at different times, and through different means of technology-–whether that is email, video calls, messaging, or anything else.
What to Do Next
Once you feel like you have a handle on managing remote employees and feel they are doing well, it is important to share that success with them. Look for opportunities to celebrate milestones that would be celebrated in an office, but may go unnoticed when working remotely.
Rather than sending an email or calling to celebrate the work of your employees, create a video to show recognition and to make them feel important. Company culture and environment are still important when you’re not working in the same physical space.
To help further create the right space for your remote employees, consider looking at additional HR software that may be a good idea for you to implement.
And to ensure that the hours of your employees stay on track even when they aren’t working in the office, consider taking a look at our picks for the best time and attendance systems.