remote workers

By Marie Erhart

With the many advancements in technology and the many changes our workplaces have undergone over the last decade, many small businesses may host entire teams of remote workers. The struggle now facing businesses, large and small, is how they can create accountability for those who work in non-traditional environments.

Accountability goes far beyond ensuring your team is productive. These tips use a variety of tried and true techniques with a little more flair to keep your remote workers involved and at optimal performance.

1. Create Time for Chatting

Building accountability might seem like setting a lot of goals for employees to hit by the end of the day. No doubt goal setting plays a part, but many remote workers lose their drive because of isolation. Unlike a traditional work environment, remote workers don’t have anyone to encourage them, solicit opinions or assist in general decision making.

Time for chatting isn’t trying to create a “water cooler” space for virtual workers. It’s about opening room for collaboration.

How to make it work: Give set dates and times for remote workers to interact online. Give these meetings loose structure but have at least one primary goal such as, assign independent tasks for an open project. Accountability will come from knowing that they are contributing work to a larger team and that the team does rely on them.

2. Use Technology to Eliminate Micromanaging

Basecamp shook up how many companies would interact while everyone was in or out of the office. But there are many other software solutions for working remotely that are more user-friendly, easier to access or more affordable. The issue that many small businesses have with accountability for remote employees is the fine line between management and micromanagement.

If you’re corresponding through email, skype, or a messaging app, then it’s likely that you are either communicating too little or too much. There are many options available now where you can leave video messages, screen captures, or schedule and assign small tasks that add up to larger jobs. Assigning tasks makes it easier for employees to check in and mark off an assignment without having someone regularly ask if something was done yet.

How to make it work: Use software or an app that allows your team to communicate while also showing who has which tasks assigned to them. The software should allow you to manage your team and the projects you’re working on while allowing your staff to show what jobs they’ve completed.

3. Ask for the Proof

Remote workers rely on maintaining a level of trust, and many managers or small business owners feel that requesting a play-by-play of their employee’s day violates that trust. A manager or small business owner who would otherwise work with a person day in and day out have the right to ask for proof that a job is getting done.

If you have large projects that need time to develop, then request work in specific stages to prevent an all-star employee from slacking off until it’s the day of the deadline.

How to make it work: Request deliverables daily. Even if it’s a typed up summary of the work done for the day, or a few screenshots of their progress on a big task, deliverables build accountability but they also open up the opportunity to further discuss the project or task, and it will likely result in better quality work.

4. Track Time and Whereabouts

There are plenty of offices that have severe consequences for employees who spend too much time away from their desk or general workspace. The misconception that people have is that remote workers don’t have to deal with these types of consequences. Instill accountability with your remote workers with software that tags a time for when they clock in or out as well as their location.

How to make it work: Along with using software to track your remote workers’ time and location you need to lay out some ground rules that allow them to enjoy the benefits of a non-traditional work environment still while ensuring that they’re actually putting in the hours of a regular workday. Set out some basic expectations and let them know that the software is in effect.

Marie Erhart is a Success Manager at FieldPulse, creators of field service software that lets you run your entire contracting business from a single app. She works with contractors to help them grow their business using best practices.

Remote workers stock photo by Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko/Shutterstock