Letting employees work remotely can be beneficial to them and your business. You can find more qualified workers by opening up your job search and not requiring relocation. Remote work can increase employee happiness because they can work within the restraints of their life. And, you can increase employee retention by letting employees telecommute at least part of their time.

By Mike Kappel

But, managing employees isn’t easy when some or all of them are remote. Unique challenges exist. It can be more difficult to communicate important information, have meetings, and keep everyone accountable. You need to manage your remote workforce differently than your in-house staff.

At my company, some employees have the option to work remotely. Thanks to laptops and internet, they can work from home. Because of this perk, we’ve set up processes that help connect remote and in-house staff.

Tips for managing remote employees

You can successfully manage remote employees despite the challenges. Use the following five tips to better connect employees and increase productivity among your remote workforce.   

Use video communication

Video communication tools can help everyone on your team stay in touch.

Remote work can be isolating. Video communication can help alleviate some of that isolation and connect remote workers.

Video calls also let everyone participate in meetings. Remote employees can see the group and nonverbal cues. Because the video essentially brings remote workers into the room, they can more equally participate with on-site employees. Decisions can be made faster than if the group had to go back and forth using another communication method.

Video communication tools also promote employee attendance. The employee must be present at the same time as other employees on the video call. And, you can see where the employee is working. If an employee is slacking off or being deceptive, you can easily notice.

Set up a time and attendance system

When employees aren’t working in front of you, it might be difficult to tell when they are actually working. Some employees might take advantage of the freedoms of remote work by not working as much as they should. And, it can be difficult for you to track employee time if you let them work flexible hours. To make sure employees are working as much as you expect them to, you need to set up a time and attendance system.

When you use time and attendance software, employees must clock in and clock out to record the time they work. This way, you know exactly how much each employee worked each day. At the end of each pay period, you can review the time cards. You can check for any discrepancies and make adjustments. After you approve all the time cards, you can then run payroll.  

Use project management tools

Your entire staff will be more productive if they can effectively work together. Cloud project management tools, such as an online calendar and project tracker, can help. These can help employees know what is being worked on, what step each project is on, and when deadlines are.

With project management software, everyone can see a project’s progress. They can see who is working on the project and what needs to be completed next. And with project management software, you can see how long employees spend on each task.

When you share a cloud-based calendar with everyone, they can see important dates. You might add deadlines to the calendar. And, you can schedule meetings and invite employees using the online calendar.

Define roles

When employees aren’t working side-by-side every day, their roles can become unclear. They might not be sure who is in charge of doing each task. And, they might not know who to turn to for help.

Also, because remote workers are out of sight of in-house employees, they might also be out of mind. This means they might get overlooked. You and employees might neglect to equally distribute information and workload.

Make sure each employee’s roles are clearly defined. And, make sure all employees understand their roles. Develop a structure of who people report to and which employees must do certain tasks.

Formalize expectations

Remote employees tend to have a lot of freedom. But, you should develop guidelines for remote work to guide their freedom.

Be clear about how many hours you expect your remote employees to work each week. Also, tell them if they must work on specific days or within certain hours. If you have expectations about the quantity of work completed, make that known, too.

Explain your paid time off policy. Employees should know how much time off they have, when they can use it, and how they must schedule it.

Write down your expectations in a place that employees can easily reference, such as your employee handbooks.  

Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online payroll and accounting software for U.S. small-business owners. Connect on Twitter: @PatriotSoftware.

Remote worker stock image by fizkes/Shutterstock