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Sun, 06 Dec 2009

Effectively managing Remote employees

As more and more people especially in the High-tech industry are working from home either part time or full time , new expectations are being set for managers for managing these non-traditional employees.
I'm sharing  below some of the things which I have learnt over a period of couple of years of managing remote employees .

One of the first feelings as a manager who manages remote employees , will be that of "How can I manage employees who I don't see.".It is one of those feelings of helplessness and lack of control etc.One of the first things would be to conquer this feeling , by puttiing in the right processes and people.

Some of the things which has helped me is the following
  • Right people - This is critical in any organisation whether remote/offsite or on-site.But , with remote employees it becomes very very critical and it is something very crucial without which , all the other things will fail.The remote employee HAS to be trustworthy , otherwise  you need to find someone who is, there are no two ways about this.
  • Right processes -
    • Defining core working  hours , where everyone needs to be available , regardless whether they are remote /local or in another timezones.
    • Arrange for yearly/quarterly face to face time.
    • Insist on using video conferencing , if there are budgetary considerations then atleast try to have  1 on 1's on a video conference.You and your employee both will be very effective in picking up vibes/body language etc.
  • Right tools - Invest in tools like 
    • Instant messengers
    • Software based VOIP phones
    • Wikis
    • Collaboration tools
    • Video conferencing .Every atttempt should be made to ensure that  there is no difference between on-site employees and remote employees.Webcams are pretty cheap and can be had for about $20-30.It is money well spent.

As a manager you need to be aware about not being biased by the following.A lot is expected from you to be not biased when you have a mixture of on-site/remote employees versus a  monolithic environment.
  • Remote employees  claim that they work harder then on-site employees . Personally I feel this is a myth , the reason is most of these employees/managers don't realize the difference being "available" and actually "working".Just because someone responds during odd-hours doesn't mean they are working harder then others.In todays connected world it is very easy to respond in  odd hours but not actually be working.The same is true for on-site employees also.
  • Remote employees will also claim that they are more efficient then  on-site employees because they don't commute .But I feel that there are 2 things which equate them to on-site employees inspite of they saving time on commute .Those are 
    • Mankind has still not found a replacement for a whiteboard.Pictures truly speak  a thousand word.
    • Meeting every one face to face and buildling a relationship in the on-site office helps getting things done a bit faster.Though this becomes less over a period of time.

All in all , I feel that Remote employees are here to stay and that might be the future too , where in companies might not want to invest in expensive real estates and try to have as many employees work from their home as possible.So the sooner we learn to manage the new workforce , we will be better equipped.

posted at: 12:17 | category: /management | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin