Remote Employees: 5 Ways to Engage and Manage Them

This guest post was contributed by JT Ripton who is a business consultant and freelance writer out of Tampa. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton

As the modern business world becomes more dependent on independent contractors and remote workers, the models of leadership have to change. Today’s manager has to use every tool at his or her disposal to make sure every member of the team is on the same page, whether in person or telecommuting. Here are some strategies to keep remote employees engaged and on-task.
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Telecommuting From A Garden Office

garden officeIn recent years, more and more people are telecommuting, or working from home. Sometimes this has been a forced decision following a redundancy as a result of the global financial meltdown, other times it’s a deliberate decision. Working from home cuts down on time spent commuting, it allows for more personal time, and it limits the amount of money that a company needs to spend on office administration.

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How to Manage Remote Employees From a Home Office

Working remotely is on the rise, and for good reason. It’s often cheaper to employee people to work from their homes. Plus it cuts the expense and hassle of setting up a physical workplace. It gives employers a greater pool of employees to choose from, which can be especially important for companies in small towns or unskilled areas of the country. And of course, working from home can be a lot more comfortable for all involved.

But managing remote workers doesn’t come without challenges (challenges that some do not want to contend with, as was the case with Yahoo’s CEO, Marrisa Mayer).

Assuming that you are one of the thousands who do embrace this new trend, here are some of the challenges and tools that you should be familiar with in order to run a productive remote workforce.

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Employee Outsources His Work To China

In the news today was a funny yet disturbing story about a top notch employee who outsourced his own work to China.

The employee himself made a couple of hundred thousand dollars working as a software developer, but he wasn’t actually the one doing the work. He paid a firm in China $50,000/year to do it all for him. While his Chinese counterpart was working, the American employee surfed the web.

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How to Manage a Telecommuting Workforce

Contrary to popular belief, flexibility can actually boost employee productivity, while rigidity and schedules can sometimes lead to disengagement. Showing employees a little bit of trust and freedom can go a long way towards happy employees.

A telework report noted that, “More than one-third of technology professionals said they’d cut their salary by up to 10 percent in exchange for telecommuting full-time. What’s remarkable is that even after two years of flattish compensation, technology professionals are willing to sacrifice $7,800 on average to work from home.”
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Timesheet Issues With Telecommuting

More and more businesses are hiring telecommuters as more and more web-applications help make jobs mobile. The Internet has enabled small businesses to take advantage of serious savings by employing these remote workers.

The cost of leasing an office, powering it, networking it, furnishing it, ect. is expensive for just a 5 employee operation. Just think what a business could save by eliminating all those costs.

However, managing remote employees has its unique challenges. Employers need a way to keep track of their employee’s time on the clock even when they’re not around to monitor them. In the past, many telecommuters have used spreadsheets or the body of an email to report their time. Now, web based applications offer a more accurate, real-time way to track time. It’s almost like remote employees are popping round the office to punch the clock before heading home to work.

The following are some of the problems a real-time web application like can solve.

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