When 2020 began, the average manager may have supervised a handful of remote workers. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are having some or all of their employees work from home for the foreseeable future.
Working remotely, also known as working from home or telecommuting, is performing work at a location other than an “official duty station.” With laptops, high-speed telecommunications links, and ever-present pocket communications devices, many employees can work almost anywhere at least some of the time.
Telecommuting provides benefits for both employers and employees. Research shows that remote work can improve the quality of work/life and job performance (i.e., reduces office
overcrowding and provides a distraction-free environment for reading, thinking, and writing). Studies have also found an improvement in retention, leave usage, and productivity.
Employing remote workers also creates flexibility in hiring. If the company is restricted by location, it can hire the best and the brightest individuals from just about anywhere.
Remote workers pose unique challenges. For example, how does the company make sure remote workers are on task, on schedule, and performing up to par? These types of issues almost always come down to communication.
Before allowing an employee to work remotely, there are a number of questions to consider. How will they contact supervisors and coworkers? How frequently should such communication occur? When are remote workers expected to be available? When contacted, how quickly are remote workers expected to respond? Addressing these questions at the start of a remote relationship will make sure everyone is on the same page.
Since remote workers may be in different time zones, everyone may need to be flexible about meeting times. Establishing a routine for communicating with remote workers can help. For example, a weekly phone conference may keep everyone in sync, even if it’s just to check in.