As work-life balance becomes a more and more common (and expected) job perk and as technology advances allow companies to hire the best workers no matter their location, remote workforces are beginning to grow at astounding rates. However, with this growth comes many concerns, such as:
- How do you manage a remote staff?
- Who will handle IT concerns?
- Isn’t face to face interaction important?
While there may be concerns with this form of work, often, the benefits outweigh the bad. For example, allowing telecommuting:
- Broadens the scope of your job hunt since anybody anywhere can do it.
- Often equates to happier employees who are more likely to stay with you and stay engaged.
- Attracts better candidates.
With a few best practices, managing a virtual workforce can help eliminate some of the concerns while also keeping the benefits.
Cloud Platforms Make Telecommuting Much Easier
The problem with clouds is that they often mean rain. When you want a sunny day, this can be a bad thing. However, there are lots of reasons rain is good – for example, the earth needs water.
Similarly, when it comes to the cloud, there are lots of ways you can find fault. Maybe you are afraid of security breaches or privacy concerns. Just like if you only focus on a gray day, you will find a reason to hate clouds, if you focus on the potential bad, you will find reasons to avoid using public cloud platforms. If you want to manage a virtual workforce, though, you need to get over this.
David Linthicum wrote a piece for InfoWorld in which he points out that one of the many benefits of cloud computing is that there is a middle man, in the form of the cloud software operator, to push many technical problems to. So certain things suddenly are not your problem, or at least less your problem, including:
- Connection issues
- Data capacity
In other words, getting behind cloud services makes managing your telecommuters a lot easier.
Video and Web Conferences Equate to “Face Time”
Face or voice time is important. Being able to keep up with your employees is much easier when there is some sort of live communication. However, it does not necessarily have to be in-person face/voice time. Video and web conferencing has greatly advanced in the last several years. With these advancements has come the ability to have real-time meetings with workers no matter where they reside.
Through the use of audio and video, it becomes possible to connect with employees without requiring them to make a trip to the office.
Having weekly or even daily video or web conferences makes it easier to keep track of a remote employee’s production and effort.
Instant Chat Is Not AIM
Perhaps when you think of instant messaging, you think of the days when we used services such as AIM. However, in the business world, instant chat has become much more than that.
In today’s version of instant chatting, instant chats are often part of bigger products that offer many helpful services to the remote workforce. In The Future of Work, James Ware points out that some such services include
- Video and web conferencing applications
- Event scheduling and calendar views to see when an employee is busy, out, available, or in a meeting
- Tracking services to allow the manager to see when the employee is logged onto the service
- Screen sharing and presentation tools
- Document sharing and team collaboration tools
- Social media functions.
The chat function is integrated into the overall service, which makes it much easier to have communication with the employee all day long and also be able to tell why they are not responding quickly because they are in a meeting or with a client, etc.
Make a Point for Human Connection from Time to Time
If you are still worried about the absence of a human connection, when feasible, have in-person visits. There are many times to do this
- For initial training
- At company parties
- Regular visits at an annual or quarterly interval.
While having in-person visits might not always be a bad idea, it is necessary to remember that this is more feasible for workers within a close range of the office. If employees work far away, it might be necessary to either not expect in-person visits or else to pay the expenses when they do occur.
Reaping the Benefits of Virtual Workforces
While you may be able to pinpoint some concerns over allowing telecommuting, you could do the same for any kind of work environment. However, with a little bit of knowledge, you can reap the benefits of a remote workforce while reducing the risks.