Did you know that employees who work remotely can be a great bonus to small business owners? They’re often more productive, partly because they don’t have to deal with the time and money drain of battling a daily commute. Home-based workers reduce your overhead as they don’t need work space in your office.
Another huge advantage is that you can utilize top-notch talent from outside the area without shelling out for relocation expenses. Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing. Remote work requires careful management and a fair amount of trust.
Your challenge as a business manager is to engage with your remote team members with appropriate project and time management strategies to keep them involved, eager and on track.
On-Board Your Remote Team to Save Time in the Long Run
Proper on-boarding of remote employees is a crucial part of your time management strategy. Before you let new employees loose on your customers and products or services, invest time in making sure they understand your company and its procedures. If you have space and can afford the travel costs, bring remote workers in for a day to get a real feel for your company ethos and see how things run. Introduce them to key co-workers while you clarify their responsibilities and decision-making powers.
Finally, make sure your IT department sets up the personal logins and security permissions your new people will need in order to access company resources and information. You want your new hires to have all the tools and information they need to quickly get off to a strong start in their new positions.
Agree on Targets and Negotiate Deadlines With Remote Employees
To help keep workloads and projects on track, make sure you are clear about what you expect each of your remote employees to achieve within reasonable deadlines. Exercise a level of trust by leaving them free to determine their own working pace. Remember, many employees choose remote working in order to retain or regain a work/life balance and have some level of control over their day. Your early birds may start work as early as 5 a.m. and be finished by early afternoon, leaving them free to spend the rest of the day as they please.
Others might prefer to work a few 12-hour days and really immerse themselves in a task so they can free up the rest of their week for other pursuits. Make sure you’re on the same page regarding how often you expect workers to update you on their progress, and sync your online calendars to ensure you touch base with them regularly.
Use Time Tracking Apps
If you still require employees to log and submit complicated paper time sheets, do yourself and them a favour, and transition to one of the easy-to-use time tracking apps. These enable your mobile workforce and remote team members to easily keep track of work time using their iPhone, Android or computer. Some even include a GPS feature that shows where your employees are when they clock in. There are apps in this category that save time on administration by syncing with invoicing and payroll software, integrating both project and time management.
QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based system that you and your employees can access from any device in any location. Integrating time tracking apps with invoicing and software saves everyone admin time.
QuickBooks Time allows you to see who’s working where in real-time, including the tasks they are completing. Likewise, your employees can keep track of their time from any location using any compatible device.
Communicate Effectively With Remote Employees
Help remote workers feel less isolated and keep them engaged with their assigned tasks by communicating regularly with your remote workforce. Keep them up-to-date with company news and help them feel like part of the team. If your regular progress updates tend to be via email, schedule regular telephone calls as well as face-to-face meetings and team video conferences. It’s far easier to detect concerns in a person’s voice or behaviour when you can actually see or hear them.
To build team spirit, try to arrange gatherings at least a couple times a year where you can bring your remote team members together to discuss work projects and to socialize with the rest of your team. If your budget allows, book a hotel with meeting rooms at a convenient central location. Establish a clear written agenda for the daytime activities, and put together a more relaxed social agenda for the evening.
Manage Differences in Time Zones
It might seem obvious but it’s easy to forget about differences in time zones when you have remote employees on your team. From the time of their on-boarding, negotiate some crossover working hours between your schedule and theirs.
This can require careful time management when, for example, the start of your working day in Vancouver marks the end of the working day for an employee based in Europe or it’s already tomorrow for another employee based in Hong Kong or Australia because of their proximity to the international date line. If there is no one single time that includes everyone’s normal working hours, try rotating team meeting times.
If you make a habit of accidentally calling remote employees in the middle of the night, create goodwill by getting an additional wall clock and setting it to their local time.
Identify Important Time Management Training Needs
However attractive remote working sounds in theory, in practice some employees need guidance in managing their time effectively. If they’re used to working long hours in their culture, they might believe they should be available to their managers and coworkers 24-7. Break this habit by giving them permission to turn off email notifications and put their phone on silent for blocks of time to avoid distractions.
This is also important for mobile workers who spend a lot of time on the road. Agree on times during their day when they make themselves available to pick up work-related phone calls and check voicemail, text messages and emails for anything urgent.
Help Remote Employees Structure Their Working Day
Some people need the imposed discipline of getting washed and dressed and leaving the house at a set time to mark the start of their working day. Working at the kitchen table in pyjamas with constant interruptions from kids and pets can create the wrong mindset for a productive day’s work. Thanks to the international rise in digital nomads, your employees are likely to live near a co-working office space.
A reasonable fee buys time at a proper desk with an office chair, power sockets and, in many cases, a kitchen area or a coffee supply. Some also offer private soundproof booths for phone or video-conference calls. Consider pointing your remote employee in the direction of their nearest co-working hub and picking up the bill.
If you’re still worried that an employee isn’t managing their time effectively, there are numerous self-help books and articles with good advice on how to learn proper time management skills. You can also intervene by taking these basic steps:
- Create a prioritized list of the work they are expected to perform
- Break down their tasks into more manageable chunks
- Suggest they get the most difficult or least pleasant tasks out of the way early in their workday while still feeling fresh
- Increase the frequency of how often they report back to you
- Remind them to reward themselves with a coffee, lunch or exercise break each time they accomplish a particular task
The challenges of managing a remote team are almost always outweighed by the higher levels of motivation and commitment of individuals who feel trusted and enjoy having more control over their lives. Well-developed time management strategies help your remote employees become productive and valuable company assets while effective apps help reduce time you both spend on administrative duties.
Time tracking has big benefits for you, your business and your employees. Whether you’re looking for more efficient workflows or organizing your time tips, time-tracking software can help meet your goals. QuickBooks Online helps businesses track and manage your business on the go.