When your employees work from home, it can be a challenge to keep track of what’s going on.
It leads many managers to wonder: should we let employees work from home at all?
Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom had the same question a few years ago, so he put together a study to find out. What he found was startling:
Bloom found that companies could save as much as $2,000 per year per employee by hiring a remote team or allowing employees to work from home.
Before you shut your office and send everyone home, however, you should be aware that hiring remote employees comes with its own set of unique challenges.
If you’re thinking about building a remote workforce or introducing more flexible work arrangements for your employees and contractors, here are seven common mistakes to avoid:
1. No Face-to-Face Contact
One of the most common problems remote workers face is feeling disconnected.
If your remote employees work locally, have them come to the office a few times a month just to catch up. If they work in a far away location, use video calls as much as you can.
While you can’t completely replace the teambuilding impact of face-to-face interactions, video calls are much better for team-building than voice-only calls. Skype and Google Hangouts both have free, easy-to-use solutions. All you need is to set them up.
2. Not Changing Your Hiring Process
Great office workers may not automatically make great work-from-home employees, and vice versa.
In addition to your normal interview questions, ask questions that will help you identify people who are comfortable working independently and from a remote location.
Ask about their work environment. Do they have a home office or another location from which they can be productive?
It also helps if a potential work-from-home employees are excellent written communicators. They’ll probably be using email and chat more than they would in an office.
3. Not Getting to Know them Personally
When you work with someone in an office, you get to know them as a person. You learn their interests and their frustrations, and you’ll probably even meet their family at some point.
These details help people develop trust and rapport on your team. Unfortunately, these kinds of personal details don’t tend to come out when working with a remote team member.
As the manager, you’ll need to be intentional about getting to know your employees personally. Adding a bit of small talk to the beginning of your one-on-one calls can help remote employees feel like part of the team.
4. Learning the Wrong Lesson From Yahoo
Marissa Mayer famously abolished working from home at Yahoo.
It caused a stir at many employers, both in Silicon Valley and all over the world. The announcement caused many companies to take a second look at their work-from-home policies.
Unfortunately, companies haven’t always learned the right lesson from Mayer’s move.
It wasn’t—as many thought–a condemnation of the practice of remote work in general. Here’s what she told Fortune editor Adam Lashinsky at the Global Forum conference:
“Actually, I had less of an issue with people who had really good work-from-home setups. A lot of time when people work from home formally, it works really well. I have nothing against working from home per se.”
Rather, employees at Yahoo were taking advantage of their work-from-home privileges. The result: lower productivity at the company.
Obviously, that’s the opposite of what you’re looking for. In the case of Yahoo, Mayer decided the best way to fix the problem was to bring people back to the office.
A remote workforce has to be managed properly. If you don’t have the right oversight in place, some employees might start taking advantage of the system.
5. Lack of Communication and Oversight
It can be easy to forget about your employees or contractors in remote locations.
Make sure you have regular “check-ins” so you know what’s happening with your team, and how things are going.
A few things to try are:
Daily Skype or Google Hangout check-ins. This is usually 5-10 minutes to make sure everyone knows what everyone else is working on.
Daily progress report emails to a supervisor (due at the end of the day).
Weekly one-on-one calls with supervisors (preferably on a video call).
Using shared team management services such as cloudHQ’s free Gmail team collaboration and chat tool that works right from Gmail, allowing everyone to collaborate easily.
Weekly, biweekly, or monthly team video calls to celebrate wins and recognize the work being done on your team.
6. Not Including Them in the Perks of Your Office
Sometimes you want to reward your team for their hard work. So you surprise them on a Friday with pizza or donuts.
This is a wonderful thing to do for your in-house employees. But if you have several people working off-site, it can cause them to feel left out.
To keep this from happening, send swag.
Shirts, pens, gift cards, mugs, stuffed animals with your company logo—use anything you can think of to show your appreciation for the work your team members are doing.
These small gestures of appreciation will go a long way toward making your remote team members feel included.
7. Not Providing the Right Tools
Remote or contract workers need the same tools as anyone else in your organization. That means computers, office supplies, software—anything you’d normally provide an employee in your office.
This can be especially tricky for contractors or freelancers who work with your company on a regular basis.
You need them to use the same tools you use as your team to get things done. But most of the time you’d prefer not to spend money on software licenses or equipment for contractors and freelancers.
We’d encourage you to look at all cloudHQ can do for you in these situations. With a few clicks, we can usually connect your contractor’s tools with the tools you use in your office.
Test drive the features for yourself on our getting started page.
More and more employees are reporting how much they value flexibility in their jobs. In fact, in one study, over 40% of workers stated they’d take a pay cut if it meant more flexibility from their employer.
Combine that trend with the cost savings to employers, and we expect the trend toward remote work to only get greater in the coming years.
To be successful, make sure you’re communicating properly with your remote team, and provide them with the tools that they need to get the job done. You can start with getting your free team collaboration tools by clicking on the button below.