Managers need to motivate remote workers

As an entrepreneur and owner of a software company, I know first-hand how hard it is to recruit top-notch talent.   About five years ago, we instituted a work from home hiring policy.  

At Binfire, when we hire developers or customer support technicians, we no longer require them to work from our offices.  In fact, almost 90 percent of our employees are remote workers.

The result has been fantastic and we can say with pride that we have the best developers and technical support engineers from around the globe working for us.

This diverse group of employees has enriched our work environment, has enhanced our productivity tremendously and has lowered our overall cost of operations.

There are many obvious benefits to having remote teams:  fewer expenditures on overhead and few limitations in finding the best talent for any job position.  The benefits to employers are obvious, what is less clear is how employees benefit from this remote work arrangement.

My marketing team recently completed an online survey of remote workers in companies that range from startups to mature Fortune 500 organizations.   

One of the most striking findings was the extent to which remote workers seem to work harder than in-office workers even though they do not have a commute time and have seemingly more flexibility.

Here is some interesting data:

  • 47% of respondents indicated that it is hard to maintain a work-life balance when working from home
  • 68% of respondents indicated that there are more distractions at work which causes them to get less done
  • Only 6% of respondents stated that the quality of remote workers are inferior and remote workers are less productive
  • 60% of respondents indicated that remote workers work longer hours because they do not commute

Remote workers are good for employer

What we learn from this data is that not only are remote workers overworked, but they are paying a personal price in terms of work-life balance.  

Furthermore, although many respondents indicated that they were concerned that distracts affect the quality of their work, the overwhelming majority recognize that their work is not inferior.

From this survey and from informal discussions with my own team, it is clear that remote employees need to work longer hours and sacrifice more in terms of the quality of their personal lives.  Whereas office-based workers can compartmentalize between their personal and professional lives, the home-based worker often lacks boundaries.

The result is that many remote workers are overworked and cannot receive the same level of recognition of office-based employees.   In the short term, there is a cost to the employee in terms of quality of life, but in the long-term, this cost is shared with the organization in terms of churn.

From a corporate perspective, there are several ways to mitigate against this.   At the most basic level, it is critical to recognize that there are differences between remote and office-based workers.    Armed with this understanding, there are three specific strategies that I recommend:

  • Create an organizational structure that supports remote workers. When recruiting remote workers, identify candidates that have experience working via remote.  Managers need to invest time to foster personal relations with employees and to recognize that company loyalty does not happen without a two-way commitment between the employee and employer.
  • Institute Policies and Practices to support remote employees. Employees should not be penalized from a compensation perspective just because they work via remote.   There should be equal opportunity for career growth for all employees and not just those in the home office.
  • Technology should support remote employees. Unlock the power of technology by using simple tools for online communication and collaboration. A good project management tool is a must.

Keep in mind that not every employee has the maturity and discipline to work remotely. In addition, not every manager has the skill-set to provide the guidance and mentorship that many a remote employee may need.  

If an organization focuses on metrics that are long-term in nature, then investments in maintaining a remote workforce will pay off handsomely. We at Binfire have invested greatly in making sure our remote workers maintain the right work/life balance.

For us, there is no difference between remote worker and traditional worker. We have made the culture of remote working ingrained in our DNA.  To learn more about managing remove workers read how to manage remote workers, a comprehensive report on how to manage remote workers and work from home for small to medium size companies.

David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

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