Managing Your Remote Employees: 5 Ways to Boost Productivity and Free Your Mind

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Woman on Laptop

Work has changed. The office is no longer the center of the universe, as more employees are doing work on the road, at Starbucks or in their pajamas. But in some organizations, employer policies and management attitudes of work are still stuck in a 1960s "Mad Men" view.

The truth is, if your organization is actually about results, you don’t need to micromanage the processes of your remote staff. Stop thinking in terms of "How often are they on the phone or at their computer?" and more in terms of "What are they creating of value?" This is a cultural mindset that needs to be in place before you send the first bird out of the nest. (Of course, when it comes to nonexempt, hourly employees, you do need to manage their time and tactics more closely.)

Jay Forte, a nationally known performance coach and featured speaker at the 2019 HR Specialist Summit, suggests these strategies for making telecommuting work for your entire organization – not just for remote employees themselves:

1. Don’t think of telecommuting as a perk or benefit. Dangling it as a privilege to be granted, a reward to be won, makes it seem exotic and unusual. Instead, it should be viewed simply as a modern way of doing business that either produces success for both parties, or does not. If, for example, you tell an employee that one year must elapse before remote work is allowed, say it’s because you need to know they’ve fully absorbed and accepted the culture of results, not simply waited out a probation period.

At the HR Specialist Summit … certified professional coach and author Jay Forte will host a special workshop on how to hire, manage and maximize the productivity of your off-site team members. If any of your employees work remotely, this is must-attend training! Join your peers at the spectacular MGM Grand in Vegas. See the agenda and register now to grab early-bird pricing!

2. Explain and document specific deliverables. Does the employee know exactly what needs to be delivered when, what is owed and how often? How will ongoing work be assigned, discussed and evaluated – and on what schedule? Come up with metrics that can apply to remote work and make sure supervisors clearly explain those metrics to their remote employees. Openly discuss your fears about relying on different forms of communication.

3. Remind managers to shed their fear of connecting too often. It’s best for both sides to be in touch often electronically and over the phone, at least until managers know the employee has gotten into a rhythm that both are both happy with. Get a visual of the employees’ remote workspace so they feel like you’ve "been" there. Make it clear that you need to be able to check in as often and as easily as you used to in the office, with no unexplained breakdowns. "Pop in" remotely until you sense a real two-way street has been established.

4. Make clear that the arrangement could end – and why. If a manager has tried to make remote staff more accountable, forged an effort to create an effective virtual space and looked analytically at the successes and failures of the arrangement, there is no need to sweet-talk the staff or bribe them for their compliance. Give enough feedback over several weeks or months to allow the remote employee to improve. But don’t allow a weaker performance just because the person is remote. If it’s not working, simply tell the employee, "We’ve found that the cost of this level of performance is simply too high under the telecommuting model. Our actions are dictated by the results."

A Truly Interactive Conference! At those mega HR conferences, you leave only with aching feet. At the Summit, you’ll be trained on every aspect of your HR job in smaller breakout sessions, interactive roundtables and Q&A sessions. Real HR learning! To see the agenda and learn more about our two-track approach (Strategic and Compliance), go to

Final tip: Understand the legal risks. There’s more to setting up a telecommuting program than buying a bunch of laptops and setting your employees loose. When employees work remotely, they open your organization to a unique set of liability concerns: off-the-clock work … payroll recordkeeping … accommodations for medical disabilities … privacy and security issues … FMLA eligibility … workers’ comp liability … telecommuting across state lines … and more. It’s vital for HR and management to become aware of the dangers, then to work with their payroll, IT and legal people to defuse those potential threats.

Want more practical advice on all aspects of your HR profession – hiring … benefits … handbooks … pay issues … communication … employee relations and more? Come join your peers at the HR Specialist Summit, Sept. 4-6. Get training from true experts in the HR field and have a fabulous time at the spectacular MGM Grand!

See you in Las Vegas!

Dan Kaplan
Moderator, 2019 HR Specialist Summit

P.S. Two FREE Bonus Gifts. All HR Specialist Summit attendees will receive comprehensive course materials … 6 months of our HR Specialist newsletter … PLUS 6 months of our HR Specialist: Premium Plus online service – a combined $597.00 value – yours FREE!

P.P.S. We’ve negotiated our lowest room rate EVER with The Signature at MGM Grand – a quieter, all-suite resort hotel adjacent to MGM Grand (and much closer to the Summit meeting rooms). But rooms are extremely limited, so book yours today!

P.P.P.S. Your satisfaction is unconditionally guaranteed. If the HR Specialist Summit fails to meet your needs, we will immediately refund 100% of your tuition. No questions asked – and your free bonus gifts are yours to keep.

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