Working remotely is increasingly an accepted alternative to the traditional office space. In fact, telecommuting (a more permanent version of remote working) remains one of the most attractive benefits a company can offer. A teleworking survey by PGi revealed that 80 percent of employees consider this option a job perk. To make this “perk” a productive part of your company environment means reaching beyond the IT department to handle the technical aspect of mobile workers. Managers of remote workers play a key role in keeping those off-site employees happy, productive and engaged with the rest of the office.
According to a study recently performed by Dell and Intel, the perception of at-home workers is shifting away from the idea that these mobile employees don’t work as hard as those in the office. Today, more than half of employees believe these workers are just as productive, or even more so, than those in the office. Approximately 30% of remote workers say they are getting better quality sleep, and 46 percent feel less stressed. In addition, businesses are seeing the savings on transportation time and costs while workers are gaining a greater balance of work and life. Additional advantages to the company can include saving money on office space and tech equipment, while increasing overall productivity. Seems like a win-win, right?
An important prerequisite to managing any type of remote employee is having the right policies in place. This includes an official Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy (which actually applies to all employees), and formal telecommuting policies. If you want more information, check out a recent episode of UC Tech Chat which addresses BYOD in the workplace, including the benefits and challenges that come along with adopting a formal BYOD policy.
It’s clear that in today’s business environment, employees no longer have to be tied to their desktop devices, or to any company-issued hardware. As mentioned earlier, a business owner or manager must be knowledgeable about the tools and practices necessary to successfully manage these remote workers. It’s an essential part of a manager’s responsibilities and no longer “just” an IT problem.
To set up you and your remote employees for success, you need to ensure they are equipped with the right tools:
Smartphones: This is probably an obvious one, but mobile devices – whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet – are necessary to work on the go. Lightning speed data connections available through LTE networks fully equip smartphones to handle a workload just as do the desktop computers at the office. Checking emails, clicking on links, and watching webinars can be done from any location. Smartphones are a must-have tool for the mobile worker.
Softphone Apps: Businesses are getting smart by investing in softphone apps to keep all their workers connected to the same phone system. Switchvox Softphone for iPhone has call features such as extension dialing, transfer, 3-way conference, record, status control, and more. This feature-rich softphone empowers the mobile worker with the same features as an on-premises Switchvox business phone system.
Project & Task Management Tools: There is a plethora of web-based tools that help employees stay on top of their projects, and your remote workers should have full access to them. Among the big players are DropBox and Google Docs, which provide file sharing and management. For the ultimate project and task management capabilities, Basecamp is one of the clear winners. Basecamp keeps all projects, files, and discussions together in one place for employees to access. It allows you to add projects, assign tasks, join discussions and more. Another great tool specifically for the remote worker is Nozbe, a website that allows the busiest remote workers to upload their tasks, organize them however they like, integrate their email, schedule appointments, and more. Obviously, this is a short list – there are lots to choose from to best match your company needs.
Productivity Tracking: Monitoring the workload and efficiency of your remote employees can be difficult without the proper tools. A great resource that can help monitor the calls your employee makes are call reports, which are available through the right Unified Communications (UC) system, with mobility features. As a manager, you want to use UC reporting functions to run or schedule reports that show you how productive your employees are with their work calls when they are out of the office. Tracking “time in and out” for remote workers can be either informal (with no official time logs but rather based on completed projects or deadlines); or it can be a structured process using management tools such as TSheets or iDoneThis, both of which track employee time on the job and completed tasks.
These tools will aid the remote workforce, but it takes real communication and effort to keep these employees engaged and enjoying their careers. The end result of a successfully managed remote worker program is happy and productive workforce – which is a benefit to employees and the company.