4 ways to manage and challenge remote employees

In today’s connected business world, many people now work remotely – either in a remote office, freelancing or working from home. The Australian Communications and Media Authority estimates 5.6 million of us now work remotely from time to time. Kevin Jarvis, Director of Robert Half, explains how to effectively manage remote workers to ensure equal benefits for both the employee and the company.

Remote work is becoming a permanent lifestyle choice; it allows for flexible hours and for people to live where they want. Many global organisations, including Dell, American Express and Virgin, have recognised the benefits of remote work – from cost savings to greater employee productivity. Here are some tips for managing remote employees and maintaining a steady balance for your business and workers.

1. Ask the right interview questions

Asking the right questions at the interview stage is even more important for remote employees, as you need to trust new hires to be productive and self-motivated. Ask competency-based interview questions to determine how candidates communicate, work independently and manage their time. It is also important to ensure the job-seeker fits your company’s culture so they can make a positive impact on business. And don’t skip the skills assessment. With no one physically available to hand-hold, remote workers need to be highly skilled at their craft and capable of working autonomously.

2. Stay connected to the goals

It is easy for remote workers to feel isolated when physically removed from other team members – this can result in the employee becoming demotivated. Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, famously raised the ire of many employees when she requested that all remote workers relocate to company facilities. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with being physically together,” read the memo from Yahoo!’s HR head. And whilst relocation is not the best answer, it does raise an interesting challenge for managers of remote workers: how do you ensure remote workers feel connected to the company or organisation that they work for?

Whether you're creating a new team or integrating remote workers into an existing one, you need to ensure they feel ‘plugged in’. Be very clear in communicating your company and team’s objectives and purpose so all members unite around a common purpose, no matter where they are. Hold regular team meetings and brainstorms and, where possible, provide the opportunity for face time and social events.

3. Avoid technological pitfalls

Firstly, make sure you use technology appropriately. Phone, video, screen sharing – having access to the right options makes the workflow easier. However, it’s not enough to have the technology available. Make sure the technologies you use – instant messaging, teleconferencing, VoIP and project-management tools – are reliable. Frequent technology failures are frustrating for remote workers and their office-based colleagues, and erode team morale and productivity. An intranet or virtual team room can also help promote team bonding.

4. Prevent burnout

Many remote workers log more hours than their office-bound colleagues because there is no commute and switching off when working from home can be hard. In a virtual environment, it can be difficult to gauge what is a reasonable workload. Be sure to communicate what is expected from the role and check in regularly with remote workers to ensure they are managing their time and workload effectively.

For many businesses, remote employees can keep costs down and productivity high. And for many employees, remote working provides the opportunity to take on a role not locally available, and brings with it work-life balance or productivity that they otherwise would not have. However, it is important that the right checks and balances are in place to ensure remote working arrangements suit everyone. Consider the technologies and systems available to assist your staff and also always remember to provide personal support.

While SEEK partners with trusted contributors to bring you the latest insight and advice, the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
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Kevin Jarvis

Robert Half


Kevin Jarvis has 17 years of finance, accounting and project recruitment experience, joining global HR firm Robert Half in 2001. He originally started in the London office, before moving to Sydney in 2003 to manage and grow Robert Half's...

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