As the number of remote workers continues to increase, small businesses face concerns about reduced productivity among their remote workers. According to a 2013 BMO Financial Group poll of Canadian business owners, Canadian employers were behind other nations in their adoption of telecommuting, with an average of 23% of employers offering telecommuting (47% of large businesses and only 22% of small businesses). The report also exposed the reasons for hesitation among those Canadian businesses reluctant to offer telecommuting: 61% indicated concern about reduced morale, and 53% were concerned about of a loss of productivity. Small businesses should consider the available resources and strategies for boosting morale among telecommuters and for helping them feel more engaged in their work.
Motivating Remote Employees to Work More Effectively
As a small business owner concerned with helping your remote employees to succeed, consider these primary guidelines for facilitating the success of your company’s telecommuting program:
Hire employees with the right personality traits to function well in an autonomous work-at-home situation. Screening prospective remote employees with pre-employment personality assessments, such as the Caliper Profile, can help you determine whether an applicant could easily adjust to a telecommuting arrangement.
Develop a performance management system with established performance goals, allowing you and your management team to provide feedback to remote employees. Frequent and regular feedback helps strengthen the relationship with your remote workers, as they can feel more comfortable bringing matters to your attention when they need clarification.
Avoid micromanagement techniques. Remote workers need situations that allow them to take full responsibility for achieving their performance objectives.
Evaluate their work product based on results rather than monitoring their activities because that degree of oversight is not achievable in a telecommuting situation.
Develop a Communication Strategy
Management of remote workers places extra importance on the mode and timing of communication. Overcome the lack of face-to-face contact by using videoconferencing technology whenever possible. Among the videoconferencing platforms available for use in Canada are Microsoft Skype for Business, RingCentral, and Cisco WebEx. Research by Pearn Kandola, a U.K.-based psychological consulting firm, indicates that when managers rely on solely on voice and email communication to reach mobile workers and telecommuters, those employees absorb less than 10% of the communication. Establish a schedule for conducting these online meetings.
Collaboration Among Remote Employees
Although telecommuters work independently, collaboration with other team members can boost their motivation, morale, and engagement in their work. Offering videoconferences that let you meet with your remote employees as a group can provide opportunities for team members to interact and discuss particular topics. Utilize a videoconferencing platform offering multiple-participant capability. When circumstances permit, arrange in-person get-togethers, allowing your employees to meet each other in the three-dimensional world. These in-person meetings can help reinforce friendships within the group and provide your staff with a greater sense of belonging to a team.