In an increasingly global business world, remote employees workflow is just as important as in-house employee processes. Hiring and retaining remote employees can come with certain challenges, due to the disconnect that can occur. With an increasing number of companies turning to freelancers and remote workers, it’s imperative that companies create central task management strategies to keep employees efficient and accountable.
As of 2017, it’s estimated that 43 percent of working adults spend at least part of their time working remotely, based on Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report. Another survey conducted at the Global Leadership Summit in London found that leaders expected half of their workforce to be working remotely by 2020. The success of the growing virtual workforce depends on technology-driven remote employees workflow management.
The worst approach to dealing with a remote workforce is to hover over employees and micro-manage them. This will only irritate employees and increase turnover. Instead, a workflow system facilitated by technology can generate positive results, while providing analytics that indicate employee compliance. Technology allows you to manage from afar, giving employees the space and trust they need to do their job well.
Employees who feel trusted and empowered are more likely to succeed. And intuitive project management, communication and collaboration software can bring people together regardless of location.
Automate and Motivate
Streamlining remote employees workflow can start with an automated system that reduces tedious and time-consuming tasks. Employees appreciate this. An ADP Research Institute study shows that 81 percent of employees feel positively about using technology to complete tasks and connect with peers. Look for technology that integrates easily with employee work styles. For example, a project management system that includes real-time chat can help employees to stay on top of tasks, share files and remain connected to peers. Some examples include Slack, Asana and Trello.
Other ways of streamlining employees workflow can include virtual meeting software that allows everyone to meet for face-time from multiple locations. There are many options for virtual meetings, such as Zoom and WebEx. One of the best ways to create a positive culture for remote employees is to conduct a daily stand-up meeting to set priorities, talk about obstacles and share ideas. Google Hangouts can be a great option for this type of quick interaction.
Project meetings can take place, but should be focused on including the team members who are actively involved in the project tasks. This can involve a VoIP system or the use of video-conferencing apps, like Skype, WhatsApp and ooVoo. ‘Bring’ virtual employees into the meeting room with onsite employees by projecting their image onto a whiteboard or a monitor. Group meetings should be followed up by management at least once a week with each remote employee. Use text messaging to send out important updates to all employees at once. Fortunately, there are a wide range of free and low-cost mobile apps that can facilitate communication and create accountability, including Basecamp, Dropbox, JIRA, WhatsApp and others.
When working with remote employees, it can be difficult to determine if they are actively engaged in their tasks throughout the day. Unlike brick-and-mortar employees, whose productivity can be physically observed, remote workers can be engaging in other activities not beneficial to the company. There are a number of products that can essentially monitor the activities of employees who are using company devices, like laptops and phones. The use of VPNs can be checked to see if employees are logging in during work hours. Some project management systems have task timers built in that can record the desktop activities of employees. Again, be mindful of giving employees space so they don’t feel micromanaged.
Perhaps the best course of action for streamlining remote processes and workflows for remote employees is to create written policies. Develop a set of expectations for remote workers to adhere to. Keep in close communication with all employees using a variety of methods, like emails, SMS texts and phone calls. Treat remote employees as the valuable and highly productive team members that they are.