BY CHRISTINA DAVIS
Susan scans the dispatch grid, and then calls Jim. “Hey, Jim, I see you’re running behind schedule…what’s your ETA?”
Jim: “I’ll be on location in approximately eight minutes, which will make me three minutes late for spot time.”
Susan: “Okay. Be sure to update your status. Be careful on the drive to the airport—it looks like some big storms are rolling in.”
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this conversation—at least in our industry—except for the fact that Susan is dispatching from her home office instead of the company office. Susan is a remote employee.
Having remote employees is not a new idea, but it is certainly a growing trend. According to Global Workplace Analytics and Flex Jobs, “The number of telecommuting workers has increased 115 percent in a decade. That translates to 3.9 million workers, or almost 3 percent of the total U.S. workforce, working from home at least half the time in 2015, an increase from 1.8 million in 2005.”
Employers often have two differing perspectives on employees who work from home. The first type wonders, “If my employees aren’t in the office, how will I know if they are really working?” while the second type notes, “My remote employee’s performance and productivity increased when he started working remotely.” These two sides of this topic are usually a result of previous experiences. You may have allowed employees to work from home, but you could never get in touch with them, and their work deteriorated. On the flip side, you may be a true believer in remote offices because your most-trusted employee became even more productive when he worked from home. Of course, both schools of thought can be correct because no two employees or situations are the same.
Not everyone is built to work remotely. Some of us need human interaction on a regular basis to feel included, to be able to meet with people face to face, and to feel other people’s energy around us. Others need quiet time to concentrate without interruptions to perform at our highest level. So how do you know if the employee requesting to work remotely would truly thrive at home?
The employee needs to be an experienced, high-performing team member who currently works independently on a regular basis. Being able to work alone isn’t enough, though. Your employee needs to be a great communicator. When an employee works independently—away from the team—the team can start to crumble. Your remote employee needs to be one who isn’t afraid to ask questions, seeks out information needed for a project or task, and comes to the office on a regular basis—ideally to attend regular team meetings.
“Being able to work alone isn’t enough ... Your employee needs to be a great communicator. ”
You must have full trust in this employee. When discussing this topic with our clients, I often hear the following question: “But how will I know if they’re working the scheduled shift each day?” My simple answer to this not-so-simple question is “You’ll be able to tell by the work product and performance level.” If you can’t trust that the employee can focus, manage time well, and meet deadlines, he/she may not be the right candidate for a remote position.
Finally, the employee must be self-motivated. Without a team surrounding this employee, his/her motivation needs to come from within. Choose employees who are engaged in the company and in their roles. Employees who are passionate about their jobs find their own motivation. It’s probably no surprise that the issue of remote employees is important to the newest generation to join the workforce—Millennials. Millennial Mindset founder Adam Henderson says, “When I conducted some research with Millennials, I found that flexible working was vital for any modern employee, with 91 percent saying flexible working was important and 92 percent saying they wanted the option to work from home. Interestingly, however, 66 percent said they would prefer to work more in the office than at home and zero percent saying they would want to work exclusively from home.”
If you have a position or two that can truly be handled remotely, whether permanently, occasionally, or on a temporary basis, it may be worthwhile to explore the option to be creative with their hours and location. We are currently administering employee satisfaction surveys for our clients and “flexibility” is one of the most common answers to “What do you like about your job?” It is also high on employees’ “reasons why I like my job.” When possible, do you offer flexibility?
Once you have chosen the right employees to work remotely, don’t leave them to sink or swim. Don’t stop managing them just because they aren’t in the office every day. In next month’s issue of HR Coach, we’ll discuss how to properly manage your remote employees. [CD0118]
Christina Davis is the HR Director for the LMC Group. She can be reached at christina@LMC.group.