According to a report from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of remote workers has increased since 2005. “The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report” found that 3.9 million workers now perform at least 50 percent of their working hours by telecommuting from their residence. This increase in remote workers is more than twice the 2005 level of 1.8 million telecommuters. With telecommuting increasing as a way of work, there are some considerations when it comes to those doing it on an exclusive basis.
Retaining, Managing and Motivating Remote Workers
The more spread out employees are across time zones within an organization, the greater the chance of inconveniences in scheduling. If one employee is in Australia and additional employees are in different regions of the United States and Canada, the time differences can create a challenge.
This scheduling problem is more pronounced for office-based employees who may have regular hours, such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In these cases, it’s up to the managers to schedule meetings and control workloads with remote workers who might have more flexible work schedules due to arrangements for their personal lives.
Employees who are on paternity or maternity leave or are caring for an elderly parent are prime candidates for working remotely. Employees who function more productively in the early morning hours or later into the evening also benefit from a remote work arrangement.
While misconceptions exist that remote workers are not be as productive as their office counterparts, a recent study indicates the opposite—requiring a different kind of work monitoring. According to a 2013 Gallup State of the American Workplace report, remote employees work about four hours more per week compared to employees working in an office. While this amount may not lead to burnout for most employees,for those who work excessively, it can develop.
Along with reminding and encouraging employees to take their earned paid time off, a company can temporarily turn off email servers or monitor remotely accessed software usage to help remind telecommuters to pursue a better work-life balance.
Ensuring All Perspectives are Gathered
Unlike a traditional office where people can be found easily, remote workers might be mistaken as absent because they’re rarely or never at the office. Taking steps to include technology to see and speak with everyone ensures remote workers are only a click away. Managers and supervisors should take the lead in ensuring that everyone is aware of the option to videoconference—and that employees are trained on how to use it. Much like someone in the office can stop by for a quick question or to attend a lengthy meeting, office workers should have the same option to communicate with their remote colleagues.
Additionally, managers should take steps to evaluate all employees fairly, including remote workers, when it comes to performance evaluations. According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, remote workers often are overlooked by supervisors due to passive face time. “Passive face time” refers to simply being observed as present at work—not speaking with or collaborating with colleagues or supervisors. The authors noted that remote employees receive poorer periodic reviews, smaller pay increases and are promoted less often—even when their performance and hours worked are on par with in-office colleagues.
While remote employees can be just as effective as those who work in an office setting, employers should make functional modifications to ensure telecommuters are just as involved in collaborative work as those inside the office.