As more employees are working from home offices, team leaders are grappling with how to manage remote workers. There is a reason why long-distance relationships don’t work out so well: lack of intimacy, boredom, uncertainty, insecurity and loneliness. Many of the same troubling dynamics found in romantic long-distance relationships can be applied to the work environment.
At the same time, with suitable tools and processes, remote workers can thrive and grow. Managing a remote worker is not easy and requires skills and expertise, and organizational support. Most importantly, you need to have the right employees.
What has led to this from office-based to remote workers? Originally, the availability of internet access and email enabled more workers to work from home. The trend increased as high-speed internet became pervasive and collaboration tools become popular. In the last few years, access to mobile devices means that workers are often expected to be available and responsive outside of traditional work hours.
Of course, managing remote workers comes with its own unique challenges. In this document, we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to succeed at managing remote workers.
Why hire remote employees?
Companies hire remote workers because it is good for business. At a macro-level the reason is simple. When structured in the right way, companies benefit from lower cost and higher productivity. Working via remote can be satisfying for some employees, especially those with the maturity and emotional intelligence to succeed.
A review of some statistics indicate the prevalence of hiring remote employees. A Gallup Poll found that 37% of workers stated that they have telecommuted, which is up from 9% in 1995. Amongst all workers, the average number of telecommuting per month is 2.3. Amongst workers who have telecommuted, the average number increases to 6.4 days per month.
There is a body of evidence that companies benefit from costs savings (less overhead) as well as increased productivity. 2In a recent Binfire survey, respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement that remote workers are less expensive. 29% of respondents indicated that they Strongly Disagree that remote workers are more expensive, and a further 17% Somewhat Disagree. Only 12% of respondents Strongly Disagreed with this statement.
Are Remote Employees Less Expensive?
Remote workers work longer hours and can work when the office is closed, thereby saving employees on overtime pay. When asked whether remote workers require less overtime pay, almost 60% of respondents to the Binfire Remote Workers Survey Strongly Agree or Somewhat Agree with this statement. Also, because there is no commute, workers who may take off time for illness, may be more willing to work from home instead of taking paid leave.
Do Remote Workers Require Less Overtime?
One of the best examples of the impact of remote workers comes from a Harvard Business Review article which studied the impact on telecommuting on a Chinese travel website call center. Not only was there significant cost saving in overhead, but there was a 13.5% increase in call completion rates and lower attrition rate.
Risks of hiring remote employees
Just because hiring remote workers can be beneficial at a macro-level, does not make the practice relevant for every job category or suitable for every employee. By reviewing some of the drawbacks to hiring remote employees, you can determine whether this policy works for you, your team and the individual employee.
There are risks associated with hiring a remote employee who has no track record working via remote or who does not have the right skill set or personality. Also, not every job or role should be optimally performed via remote.
Requirements for Hiring a Remote Worker
Let’s review each of the risks:
Attitude: Hiring workers that lack motivation
Some people need a team in order to thrive whereas others simply lack the discipline and self-motivation to meet job expectations. The specific factors affecting motivation and attitude are:
- Social: Some employees need a social environment that is away from their home life. When working via remote, they feel isolated and miss the comradery of a team.
- Work Ethic: The reality is that not everyone can work independently and unsupervised. Absent direct supervision, many will underperform on their tasks.
Experience: Hiring workers that have never worked remotely
One should not take for granted that a worker can be hired for a remote position if he or she has never worked via remote before. There is a difference between allowing (or encouraging) workers to telecommute for part of the workweek and actually hiring a remote worker.
Job Role: Not all jobs can be performed off-site
In many instances, members of a team need to be situated in the same location for strategic or even practical purposes. Certain tasks that require constant collaboration are best performed in small groups in immediate proximity. For instance, many technical writing teams are located in the same office location as their software engineer colleagues because there is a high degree of dependency between roles.
Challenges in managing remote workers
When direct reports are located in different locations, supervision becomes more difficult. The following is a list of the common challenges managing remote workers:
|1)||Lack of visibility into how remote workers allocate their time.|
|2)||Difficulty maintaining quality control over work product.|
|3)||Challenge communicating with remote workers, especially when there are cultural differences between manager and direct report.|
|4)||Difficultly mentoring and supporting the professional development of remote workers.|
|5)||Creating a cohesive project team when remote workers are spread over wide geographic area and/or time zone.|
Challenges in working via remote
Even with advances in technology and a work environment that is more friendly to remote workers, there are still some significant challenges faced by remote workers. We outline the most common challenges from the Binfire Remote Workers Survey:
1) Difficulty with professional advancement within the organization
When working via remote, employees are removed from the corporate organization which can impede their ability to progress professionally. The remote worker lacks personal relationships and is at a disadvantage when it comes to navigating the politics of the organization.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the Binfire Research Report, almost 50% of respondents believe that career advancement is more difficult for remote workers. Specifically, 32% of respondents Somewhat Agreed and a further 16% Strongly Agreed with statement that “it is harder for remote workers to advance within the organization.” Furthermore, 47% stated that they Somewhat Agreed with the statement that “distance from the main office may harm my career growth.” An additional 11% Strongly Agreed with this statement.
2) Difficulty with integrating into the organization.
Remote workers find it more difficult to integrate into the corporate culture. Remote workers may have contact with their direct team, but lack the exposure to the wider organization.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the Binfire Research Report, 42% of respondents Somewhat Agreed and a further 7% Strongly Agreed with statement that “it is harder to integrate remote workers into the corporate culture.”
3) Stressed work/life balance
One of the challenges that home-based remote workers experience is a difficulty setting the boundaries between work and home environments. In some ways, remote workers are always working. Remote workers do not have commute time and can work longer hours. For instance, when the home office is closed, they can continue to work.
Although the additional productivity from remote workers is a short-term gain for the organization, it can also lead to burnout and employee churn.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the Binfire Research Report, 19% of respondents Somewhat Agreed and a further 17% Strongly Agreed with statement that “it is harder to maintain a work life balance when working from home.”
People: How to build a remote workforce
Building a remote team cannot be taken for granted. It requires recruiting the right people and managing them in a way that achieves your objectives. Are you onboarding a new remote worker or providing support and mentorship? If there are standardized processes in place, it becomes easier to manage remote workers.
Below are some of the ways in which to recruit, train and motivate your remote employees.
Remote Worker Hiring Practices
It may seem obvious, but is nevertheless overlooked: not everyone should be hired to work via remote.
Let’s start with the recruitment process. When looking to fill a position with an external candidate, we suggest that the job description state explicitly that this is a remote position and list the expectations. We suggest that you cover the following in the job description:
Explanation for why role is remote. If there is a need to have a support technician in a specific time-zone, then this should be noted in the job description so that potential candidates understand why the position is remote.
Expectations for travel. If the job will require meetings in the corporate office, this needs to be stated. Why? Because some potential employees may be looking for remote positions because it provides them lifestyle flexibility and may not be able or willing to travel.
Experience as a remote worker. If you are seeking to fill a developer position, you will list any programming experience needed. If you are seeking to fill a remote position, you should consider candidates’ experience working from home. Has the person worked from via remote before? Do they have references from a previous remote position?
Home office requirements. Do not assume that everyone who works from home has a suitable home office. The same way that you expect your employee to have limitless high-speed internet access, you need employees that have a dedicated and appropriate workspace. Make sure that candidates understand that Starbucks and the beach are not considered appropriate home office environments.
Personal attributes. When creating a job posting, we suggest you describe specific attributes that a successful candidate will need including the ability to work independently with minimal instructions, ability to prioritize and multi-task and good communication skills.
The screening and interviewing process for a remote worker can be somewhat more challenging, especially if the interview itself is conducted remote. Below is some guidance and tips on how to hire remote workers:
If interviews are conducted remotely, make sure that they are conducted via video from the home office. Does the candidate have a well-organized home office that that is conducive to work or are there visible distractions? Does the candidate present themselves as a serious professional? Remember that your employees are the public face of your company and how they position themselves reflects on you and your organization.
Test candidates with a specific work assignment. If you are hiring a new employee for task-based role such as design or writing, then you should test your employee with a sample work assignment to determine whether he or she is capable of delivering the quality level that is required.
Personality and integrity testing: Many positions require collaboration with team members and/or external clients. Remote workers with higher Emotional IQ’s will find it easier to read cues and navigate through challenging social environments. We recommend you consider adding role-play elements to the testing and include more comprehensive behavioral testing to determine whether the candidate has the necessary attributes such as dependency, reality, and appropriate work ethics.
Check references thoroughly to verify that the employee can work remotely. Although reference checking is a standard HR practice, for remote workers you will need extra verification of past remote work experience is critical.
Close the deal in person. It’s one thing to recruit, screen and interview a candidate, but making a final hiring decision should be made in person. If you have the budget, pay for the travel of the candidate so that there is at least one in-person meeting. Simply stated, it is significantly easier to gauge chemistry, body language and communication skills from across the table than via a video chat screen.
Onboarding and Job Training
A well-designed new employee onboarding and orientation process is critical for remote employees who will have less of an opportunity to learn via osmosis or to get the benefit from “water-cooler” type support.
Below are some best practices for onboarding new remote workers:
Create a visual and interactive onboarding experience. If your plan is to send some manuals or even recorded videos, we advise you to reconsider. Using video chat is a more intimate and effective way to share information with new employees.
Don’t rush the process. Keep in mind that everyone learns at a different pace, and there is a lot information to absorb for a new remote employee. Create an onboarding plan and spread this out over a couple of months.
Use peers to help with onboarding. Onboarding is more than just about learning new processes. It is about becoming absorbed in a new organization and team. If there are multiple aspects of new employee, assign different topics to more veteran team members.
Augment remote training with in-person learning opportunities. Just because someone has a remote role does not mean that all aspects of the role need to be performed via remote. If you have the budget, create in-person orientation and onboarding opportunities in a corporate office location.
Focus on work culture. Every organization has a unique culture and it is often challenging for a remote worker to understand these dynamics. With the possible exception of task workers, it is critical that your remote worker understands how to navigate through the corporate environment if they are to succeed in their new role.
Cross-cultural sensitivity. It is common to have a virtual team comprised of colleagues spread throughout the world. In some cultures, deadlines are considered sacrosanct, in other cultures deadlines are merely guidelines. Global teams require training on how to work successfully with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and locations.
Create self-paced tutorials. During the first few months, new remote workers are adjusting a different work environment with new responsibilities and colleagues. Make things easier by providing on-demand learning modules so that everyone can learn at their own pace.
Frequent performance reviews. Remote employees need more performance reviews than the local employees. In the first year of employment, arrange a performance review every 3 months. The purpose is not for the manager to evaluate the new employee but to make sure the new employee understands the requirements and expectations. Make sure the new employee is aware of this performance review schedule from the start of their employment.
Remote worker team presentation. Ask the new employee to give a presentation (live or via video) to the team about his or her past work experience. Encourage a real discussion during this presentation so the team knows the strength and weaknesses of the new employee.
Ease employee into new role with a small assignment. Give the new employee a small task to accomplish in the first two weeks of employment. This serves two purposes. The first is to evaluate the work of the employee. The second is to give the employee a sense of accomplishment after finishing the first task.
Don’t underestimate the cost of replacing a remote employee. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, it costs between 100% and 300% of an employee’s base salary to replace them.
Expectations Setting for Remote Workers
It may seem obvious, but many managers fail to different between office-based and remote-workers and simply assume that what applies to one group, applies to the other. This is a mistake.
With remote workers, you need to set expectations both verbally and in writing about what is expected in the role and how work is to be performed. It is tempting to take the “focus on results and not process” approach, but if your remote worker is part of a project team, then you will need to clarify exactly what is required from them.
Expectations setting applies to a number of areas:
Communications: If your organization relies heavily on email then there should be expectations for how and when to respond to emails. If weekly conference calls are mandatory, then this needs to clearly stated. Setting expectations about response times is critical when collaboration with global team members is required.
Designated office location/environment: Are your remote workers expected to work from one home office location or do you only care that they get the job done? The same way that office-based employees do not bring children to work do expect your employees to organize childcare during the workday? To some extent, remote workers receive more flexibility, but there needs to be limits with respect to where and how they work.
Work hours: Is there an expectation that workers keep consistent office hours or will you allow them to create their own schedules? Even if remote workers live and work in different time zones, there are still times when work may need to be completed outside of standard work hours. Although it is unrealistic and unreasonable to expect a remote worker in Paris to participate in an afternoon call on the US West Coast, flexibility is a requirement from remote workers.
Reimbursements for business related expenses: Do you expect your employee to pay for their cellphone or laptop? How about office supplies? It is sometimes easier to ignore the expenses that employees are spending out of pocket, but it can create resentment and in some cases liabilities. Create fair and consistent policies and communicate these to your remote workers.
Time off pay/holidays: There are 21 national public holidays in India, 15 national public holidays in Japan and 10 national public holidays in Australia. Do you give your Indian remote workers 21 days paid national holidays and your Australian worker only 10? Sick leave and maternity pay varies from country to country. We don’t have answers to these questions, but you will be expected to! We suggest that you consult with your HR department and come up with a reasonable policy that reflects the local business culture as well as your organizational requirements.
Travel: Do you expect your remote employees to attend company meetings or to travel to the corporate office for important meetings? Whether travel requirements are occasional or frequent, these expectations need to be set with remote workers so that they can plan accordingly. Many businesses are now using innovative travel management tools
to streamline their corporate travel processes and enhance efficiency.
Performance evaluation: Perhaps the most important consideration for most employees is how they are evaluated and compensated. A task worker may be compensated entirely on the quality of their output or other measures of productivity. Alternatively, when a remote worker is part of a larger team, he or she may be evaluated based on level of collaboration. It is critical to set expectations upfront about all issues related to peer reviews, performance evaluation, and compensation.
Status report. Due to nature of remote work, it is very important to ask the remote worker to write a brief status report every day. The status report should include work performed that day, planned work for tomorrow and list any issues facing the new employee. As a manager, you need to write a status report about the progress of the project at the end of each day and distribute it to the team.
Expectations about deadlines. Make sure the new employee understands that his or her performance depends on meeting deadlines. If there are issues that may affect the deadline, it is the responsibility of the remote worker to notify the manager in a timely manner. Keep in mind that in some cultures, it is very hard to give bad news to superiors.
Mandate transparency. Communicate that the new employee needs to be very open with other employees. It is a requirement to share his or her knowledge and work when requested. Keep in mind that in some cultures, there is a hesitancy to share information with a team.
Creating Predictable Rhythm of Communications
There is a balance between providing a remote worker with the space and empowerment to perform and neglecting one’s managerial responsibilities. Communication does not need to be frequent, but it should be predictable.
Here are some high level guidelines for communications:
Use video chat such as Skype whenever possible. Video chat creates a better sense of engagement during a call then conference calls. In addition, video chat provides a manager with visibility into the remote worker’s home office.
Set office hours or make yourself available for calls: Let your remote worker know that he or she can call you when needed, especially during office hours. A remote worker does not get the benefit of “water cooler” opportunities and you may be the conduit between the remote worker and the rest of the office. By making yourself available to remote workers, you demonstrate your commitment them as individuals.
Make an occasional phone call: The occasional and spontaneous phone call to a remote worker is an easy way to show that your level of interest in their work. In today’s hyper-technical world, an old-fashioned phone call can be the equivalent of a holiday card.
Personalize the communications: Remember to set aside a few minutes to get to know your remote employee as an individual and to inquire about their personal life and family. Remote works often feel disconnected and isolated, so we encourage you to create personal bonds.
Think before you type: The written word is often subject to interpretation. For important discussions that are career and performance related, it is better to have an open discussion than send email. Even if the conversation is going to be difficult, don’t hide behind your keyboard.
If a remote worker is based in a location that has a different time zone, it will create goodwill if you sometimes inconvenience yourself and schedule a call at a time slot that is more suitable for the employee.
Foster Personal Relationships
Remember that life is not only about work. It's human nature to connect with other people and remote workers who feel isolated will appreciate a manager who demonstrates personal interest in their lives.
Although no one expects a manager to exaggerate their level of interest in the personal lives of their employees, there are a number of steps that can foster better interpersonal relationships between managers and their remote worker direct report:
Ask for help! Assigning your remote workers with tasks not necessarily related directly to their job role shows your trust in them on both a personal and professional level.
Thoughtfulness and consideration: Whether it means sending a gift basket to a remote worker after the birth of a child or inquiring about an ill relative, it is often the little things that count.
Generosity with praise: Managers often forget that employees need feedback and affirmation. We do not suggest that you exaggerate or flatter. However, give recognition when it is deserved.
Punctuality: Start meetings on-time and try not to cancel meetings at the last minute.
Sensitivity to local holidays and customs. Sending greeting for holidays and being aware of local customs (like type of food they don't eat or drink etc.), helps foster better work relationship.
Engage on a personal level. From time to time have personal conversions with the employee, not just about work. This creates trust and helps you to know the person better. The new employee is likely to be more comfortable sharing work-related concerns when you have a personal relationship.
Keep performance reviews professional. During performance review, it is critical that the review relates to work and not to personal related issues. This can be challenging: it is can be hard to separate the work effort from the individual doing the job. For instance, stating that a programmer’s code does not meet standards is different to stating that the person is not a good programmer.
Promote a healthy work life balance. Due the nature of remote work, the worker often loses the ability to separate work from normal life activity (exercise, social activities, etc.). Encourage the remote worker to strive for the same work life balance as local workers.
Respect the remote worker. Respect is the primary factor in building a personal relationship with new employees. This applies to all cultures and job categories.
Demonstrate trust by delegating responsibilities. When you give a remote worker responsibility, you show that you trust them. This helps build long-term relationships.
Create a Virtual Team Environment
Creating a team environment is hard work, especially when it is comprised of remote workers from different cultures. Here are some practical steps to creating a cohesive and productive remote team:
Get everyone in one room: If you have a budget, then we strongly suggest you find at least one opportunity to get everyone together. Use the meeting so that everyone gets acquainted on both a professional and personal level. Create a vision for how the team will collaborate, create strategies to mitigate against risks and find opportunities for growth.
Create a rhythm of communication: Establish regularly scheduled meetings and provide the schedule to the team in advance. If your team is based in different time zones, make sure to spread the burden and schedule calls at different times so that no one individual is disproportionately inconvenienced.
Take the time to understand cultural differences: If you have a team comprised of virtual team members based in multiple countries, it is likely that you will experience some cultural disconnects. In some cultures, it is hard to say “no;” other cultures prioritize openness or even bluntness. The first step to creating an effective cross-cultural team is to acknowledge difference and identify a common language so that miscommunication and misunderstandings can be minimized or even avoided.
Find a virtual solution for collaboration: Your team will rarely sit at the same timetable, but that does mean they don’t brainstorm, share ideas or ask for feedback. You will need a technology solution for interactive whiteboards, virtual message boards, and real-time collaboration.
Make collaboration a team goal: We don’t expect you to put aside project deliverables and deadlines because these are how you and your team are measured. However, if you create goals relating to collaboration and professional growth, this is likely to enhance the overall team results. For example, mandate design reviews by the team. This not only enhances the design but makes the team work together more tightly when everybody has a stake in the final result.
Instill Company Loyalty
Why is company loyalty important? For one thing, an increase in company loyalty impacts the bottom line. A research study at the University of Pennsylvania found that companies that spend 10% of revenue on capital improvements achieve a 3.9% improvement in productivity. However, when the same amount is spent on improving employee capital, the increase in productivity rises to 8.5%. Other benefits of loyalty include lower employee churn rate. In the best scenario, employees will suppress their own short-term demands for more compensation and prioritize the long-term growth of the organization.
Because the remote employee may have less exposure to the wider organization, in many ways you are the conduit between the employee and the company. Your management style and the example can directly impact the loyalty to the company. Below are some ways to instill company loyalty in a remote employee:
Articulate a clear vision and lead by example. Business has missions, operating principles, and goals. As a manager of remote worker, you will be the personification of your entire organization. Your behavior and attitude must be consistent with the values of the organization. You need to demonstrate competence, confidence, honesty, and integrity. Being viewed by a remote worker as a role model that is worthy of respect is a key building block for employee loyalty.
Be truthful about the business. Your company needs to be profitable in order to pay salaries and employees will be appreciative if they are kept informed of financial performance or changes in the economic or competitive landscape. Communicating about the future of the business gives confidence to your employees about their own career prospects within the organization.
Don’t overplay the “bad cop” role. There are times when you need to deliver difficult news such as a poor performance review. Use this an opportunity to help your remote worker understand their mistake and figure out how to resolve issues going forward. Of course, there are times when reprimanding an employee is necessary, but turning a negative into a positive fosters loyalty to the individual manager and to the entire organization.
Be a champion and advocate. There is no better boost for employee morale that public praise. This will be especially appreciated by the remote employee who may struggle to create a positive impression when he or she is removed from the corporate organization.
Help them navigate through the organizational maize. Working via remote can be overwhelming, especially when a remote worker is new to an organization. Help your remote worker understand the nuances of the corporate culture and explain to them how to get things done. Even advice on who to go to for help or who to avoid can make a huge difference for the remote employee.
Mentorship Program for Remote Workers
Did you know that Google has one of the lowest employee turnover rates and one of the best mentorship programs? A study at Columbia University shows that when new employees are mentored, their performance and retention rates improve.
Below are some ways to mentor your remote workers:
Set mutual goals. The role of the mentor is to help the remote worker achieve certain professional milestones of a set period of time. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your mentee and try to build a specific plan to facilitate their integration into the work environment.
Become a sponsor. Remote workers do not have your level of access and relationships within the organization. Find ways to open doors and help your mentee network with the right people who can help them reach their professional goals.
Keep a lookout. Every organization has difficult and challenging people. Keep your mentee safe from internal politics and help him or her avoid difficult situations that can be career damaging.
Become a role model. Whether you wish to or not, as a mentor you are setting an example for your mentee to follow. As a mentor, you have the responsibility to act with integrity and professionalism.
Coach. Your job is to help your mentee gain confidence within the organization so that they can ultimately become fully integrated. This requires patience, empathy listening with curiosity.
Build trust. Being a remote worker can be a challenge on multiple levels. Your goal is to be considered a trusted advisor. Your mentee needs to believe that what is told in confidence remains in confidence.
Provide feedback. As a mentor, there will be times that you will need to provide direct feedback that relates to poor performance and attitude. Keep feedback specific, relevant and actionable. Avoid vague comments or making direct comparisons with other team members.
Set boundaries. As a mentor, it is your job to set realistic goals for the new employee. Most new employees are anxious to prove themselves and tend to take too much upon themselves when they start. You need to make sure to that the new employee does not take too much responsibility too soon before understanding company's processes and procedures.
Map a Clear Career Path. One way to communicate to a remote employee that you are committed to their future growth within the organization is to map out a clear career path. In this way, you can help the employee align their long-term career goals with their professional growth within the organization. This is a win-win for both the employee and the company.
Below are the steps for mapping the career path of a remote worker.
Start with goal setting. What are the 3 to 5- year career objectives of the employee? Does she want a managerial role or to gain expertise in a particular field and become an individual contributor? For some people, career is their entire focus whereas others lack ambition.
When setting goals for overseas remote workers, it is important that you provide them realistic options within your organization. For instance, if a remote worker wishes to be transferred to the corporate office in order to gain international experience, you need to understand issues relating to work visas and the logistics of relocation. Remember to set expectations that can be achieved within the constraints of your organization.
Create a skills self- assessment. Work with the remote employee to explore their skills, interests and capabilities and how these are best suited to help the employee advance within the organization. As a manager, you need to facilitate this process by providing a sounding board so that the employee has an accurate view of their core competencies.
Map a career roadmap. Your goal is to provide a roadmap of activities and accomplishments that the remote worker can achieve in defined period of time. As a starting point, many organizations provide a framework for the skillset and experience required for consideration for different role levels. Not all jobs are skills-based, and you may need to provide guidance about a how to gain exposure to different parts of the company over time.
Creating a career roadmap is as much an art as science. Not every role has a sequential career path; some roles required a multidisciplinary skillset that cannot be gained in a short timeframe.
Create a learning plan. Help your remote worker by finding opportunities to for them to attend trainings that can support their career plan. This should include both formal training seminar, e-learning, and in-person professional development.
Track progress over time. A career plan is not a statistic document. It should be used as a basis for ongoing dialog. There will be times where it will change as career goals evolve and the remote worker gains more experience within the organization. Measure the success of the remote worker in achieve his or her goals and make adjustments accordingly.
Process: Policies and processes to support remote workers
How to create a compensation policy for remote workers
Creating a fair compensation for remote workers requires careful planning and a company-wide policy is needed to cover all classes of remote workers. Below are some guiding principles for developing a remote workers’ compensation plan. Please note that there are additional legal, taxation and HR considerations which are not covered in the list below.
Base salary is a function of both local pay conditions and company-wide standards.
The cost of living varies from state to state and from country to country. In some cases, companies deliberately source workers in cheaper markets as a cost saving. In other scenarios, the decision to hire remote workers is driven by a shortage in the local job market.
If your team is based overseas, do you pay employees at the local wage level or do you adjust for the corporate pay scale? The answer is not clear. If the rationale for staffing workers in a cheaper labor market is purely economic, then compensation should be in-line with local market conditions. However, if your goal is to recruit, nurture and create long-term employees, then we recommend you adjust your compensation to more international levels. Pay parity across varied markets is not necessarily practical, but compensating employees at a premium to local market conditions is a way to recognize your level of commitment and investment in the career of your employees.
It is important to note that different countries include different elements base compensation. If there is nationalized healthcare or mandatory workers’ compensation requirements, then the employer is required to make additional payments for each employee.
Finally, remember that in many markets, compensation is tied to the rate of inflation. In the past, it was also common for linkages to movements in currency. This complicates planning and budgeting, especially for small companies that do not have the flexibility to hedge foreign currencies.
There are many hidden costs associated with hiring employees in foreign markets. These include a number of local mandatory taxes that can add a significant amount to the base salary of each employee. If decisions are based on cost alone, then a full analysis of legal, tax and regulatory considerations is recommended.
Bonuses and incentives can be adjusted for overall team performance
Many organizations provide quarterly or annual bonuses based on the performance of the team or individual. If the team is compensated for reaching a revenue goal, then differences in local pay scales is less important. However, if compensation is tied to reaching a specific project milestone (development of new feature), then we local salary levels can be factor in allocating the budget.
The most important thing to avoid is the appearance of favoritism or of making arbitrary decisions. If there is a significant differential in pay scales, then one can justify the variances in bonus payments. However, if decisions are based on other factors, e.g., (corporate home office employees receive disproportionately high bonuses), then companies risk creating unnecessary rivalry. Make sure that you can always justify the decision on how to pay remote workers based on data-driven analyses.
Compensation based on financial performance of the organization
Many organizations give raises and bonuses based on the financial performance of the company. If your company is successful in the market, recognize and reward employees by their contribution.
If it is important to recruit and promote high caliber engineers in a competitive segment, do not create the perception that they are penalized based on geography or working via remotely.
Create reasonable policies for reimbursement
Studies indicate that working via remote saves company money because the employee is more likely to spend out of pocket then request a reimbursement. When to add up the out-of-pocket cost of utilities, office supplies, rent, and telecommunications many remote workers are actually subsidizing their employers.
Our overall approach is to reimbursement is that there should be an equitable and consistent policy across the organization. Any direct expenses that are associated with the employee performing his job should be paid by the organization.
Capital expenses such as office equipment need to be pre-approved. Depending on the job role, a printer is either a necessity or just a nice-to-have. However, a laptop or desktop computer is a requirement for every office-based worker.
Use local custom to define national holiday and vacation schedules
In Australia, there are 10 public national holidays and in India, there are 21 holidays. When you hire remote workers, you will need to provide them time off with full pay for national holidays. With regards to paid vacation, company-wide policies should be in place that not dependent on local conditions.
Security protocols for remote workers
Every day hackers find novel and sophisticated ways to breach the corporate firewalls of companies in order to perpetuate a criminally-motivated cyberattack. Corporate network security is only as strong as the weakest links. In many cases, the weakest link is the remote worker.
Is this a management issue or an IT issue? The answer is that this is primarily a management issue and is largely avoidable by instituting uniform security policies for all remote (and office based) employees.
Cyberattacks by industry
Computer Weekly called remote workers “ticking time-bombs
.” Remote workers are sometimes more vulnerable to attack for the following reasons:
They can email and/or access the corporate network from unsecured locations (e.g., public wireless) or from their own personal devices. It is relatively easy for hackers to access a corporate network from free public wireless. Many home computers and other personal devices do not have updated anti-virus protection and therefore create addition levels of vulnerability to the corporate network.
If a remote worker is unfamiliar to the inner workings of an organization, he or she may be more prone to responding to an email from an unknown sender. A Cisco survey
of remote workers found that in India between 10% and 20% open emails from unknown senders. This makes the entire network vulnerable to Trojan horses and other viruses.
Remote workers that are not in a corporate office environment can be in social situations where they are asked by acquaintances for access to their work computer for personal use. Computer sharing with unknown third parties creates additional opportunity for cyber penetration.
IT is often decentralized, and remote workers may not have local IT support. One common scenario is for the remote worker to use his or her own device that lacks enterprise-grade security standards.
Remote workers especially those who work from home may give their friends or family members with access to their computer. The sites visited by them may compromise the security of the device.
The following strategies are used to reduce of cyberattack to remote workers.
Create a thorough cyber security policy and train your remote workers as part of their onboarding process. Training should be mandatory and ongoing. Policies should include guidelines for downloading information from untrusted sources, how to detect and react to suspicious behavior and which types of external website are considered safe and appropriate.
Restrict the use of personal devices. Corporate access should only be allowed from devices that have updated anti-virus software. This applies to all devices including smartphones. If personal devices will be used, they must conform to the company’s cyber protection protocols.
Use VPN for secure network protection. A Virtual Private Network keeps your data safe from hackers by creating a virtual point-to-point connection. The encryption provided by a VPN should be used for transmitting confidential and proprietary information.
Protect the network with proactive “white hat” and “black hat” hacking. Hire external parties to try to infiltrate your system and simulate how much potential damage can be done by employees with network access. Use tools such as vulnerability scanning as well as tools to identify penetration probes.
When using Project Management and Collaboration software for remote teams, ensure that the vendor uses the most secure possible protocols. All connections and files should be encrypted for secure communication and storage by the project management software. It is important all pages are behind https and not http. This ensures the site is secure and could be trusted with your data
Use firewalls on both remote devices and corporate servers. Firewalls can stop some worms which cannot be detected or stopped by antivirus software or VPN programs.
Track Productivity Metrics
According to Harvard Business Review
, one should apply the same metrics to both remote and office-based workers. The metrics that we review below can be used for all workers. However, it is a best practice to make sure that a system is in place to measure remote workers. Below are some metrics to consider:
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs):
companies ranging from startups to Intel and Google use OKRs to track progress. Employees are required to list their (qualitative) objectives for a future time period and the specific actions (results) that it will take to achieve the objectives. Results need to be quantifiable such as a 12% increase in sales or a 5% reduction in production time.
Feedback on employees is solicited by their peers, direct reports, managers and also by the self-assessment of the employees themselves. In some cases, feedback can include third parties such as vendors, customers or partners. Although there are some concerns about biases and the accuracy of the information, the advantage of the 360 Degree Feedback is that it encompasses a wide range of individuals that work directly with the employee.
Productivity and Time Tracking: Using project management software or task management software, managers can measure the amount of time spent working on a particular task, the duration of the task and how many tasks are completed within a given timeframe.
Technology: Tools that enable remote workers
There is no doubt that technological innovations have been the biggest drivers that have enabled employees to work via remote. We focus on three technologies that help manage remote workers so that their performance can be monitored without intrusive or time-consuming processes.
Project Management Software for Remote Teams
There is a new generation of Project Management software designed for remote workers. A few years ago, most teams used Microsoft Project. Project managers worked with team members to create tasks that were input into the Project Management system. The role of the Project Manager was to keep track of progress, update status and to resolve issues before they impacted deliverables.
In 2016, project management software has been democratized. The role of the project manager has evolved and plays a less critical role in keeping the project plan updated.
Here are some of the features that are needed for project management software that supports remote teams:
Gantt Chart for Team Visibility. As long as the employee has the right level of authorization, he or should be able to start a task on the Gantt Chart and edit it independently. When changes are made by one remote worker, the rest of the team is automatically notified.
Kanban Boards for Remote Workers. The status of the task of each remote team member is visible to the entire team. It also contained in one simple list. With a simple drag and drop, everyone can move a task from Working On to Waiting for Approval to Complete.
Permission-based Setting. On the remote team, there are different members who require different levels of access. The graphic designer who is formatting the deliverable may not need to access the project plan issues. Good project management software gives every team member the appropriate level of access to their role and position.
Time Tracking Software
Time tracking is used primarily for task-based workers whose output needs to be monitored. The user or manager can track the time that the remote workers spend on tasks and bug fixes using the internal time tracking gadget. Each task has its own clock icon. It should be relatively easy to start or stop the time tracking by clicking on and off clock icon. The app displays the elapsed time since the clock was started nest to the clock. All data from the time tracking gadget are entered to personal time sheet and project time sheet.
Real-Time Collaboration Tools
There are several tools that lower communication barriers and accelerate collaboration. Below are some examples of tools that every remote worker can benefit from.
Real time chat to speed up communication. Although there is nothing inherently collaborative about chat when chat is integrated into Task Management it enables communication to focus on specific outcomes such as completing a deliverable.
Virtual message boards to crowdsource information: There was a time that office workers would ask their colleagues questions by leaving a note on a message board. With remote teams, this is no longer feasible. As a result, remote teams use virtual message boards so that anyone on the team is able to solicit information and ideas about specific topics and open the message board to a wide range of remote employees.
Video Calls / Skype
When remote workers are based in different locations, non-verbal communications become more difficult. The use of Skype or video conferencing helps address this problem. There are several benefits of using this technology:
Enforced discipline. If team members are expected to be available for video calls, it requires them to be more disciplined and professional about their appearance and their office space. Conducing a video call with one’s manager when there are children, pets or Starbucks baristas in the background does not convey a sense of professionals.
Non-verbal communications. During conference calls, one does not benefit from non-verbal communications such as body language. For instance, it is easier to read the non-verbal cues of a team member that is suggesting resistance to a new idea. Words alone do not always convey the message.
Cost savings. Skype and other VOIP solutions use the internet to bypass local Telco’s. In many cases, remote workers may live and work in a location where there are high charges for long distance phone calls. As long as there is decent broadband, this cost can be virtually eliminated.
Structured Brainstorming for Knowledge Sharing
Your employees are your organization’s most valuable asset.
In the Binfire Remote Workers Research study, we asked respondents whether they agreed with the statement that “Remote workers bring new perspective on how to solve problems.” 24% of respondents Strongly Agree with this statement and a further 33% Somewhat Agree. Our conclusion is that remote workers bring a lot of insights and expertise to the organization. The challenge is to find a way to tap into this asset that has the potential to change your organization.
Your virtual team does not allow have the bandwidth to engage in brainstorming sessions as a group. Technology provides the answer in the form of virtual or interactive whiteboards
. The interactive whiteboard is accessible to the remote team around the clock so that team members can solicit feedback or crowdsource new teams on a continuous and non-disruptive basis.
Document Collaboration Tools for File Sharing
One common challenge for remote workers is that there is that it can be challenging keeping track of who on the virtual team is working on which document. With the use of email for forwarding documents, there is a risk of version control.
Project management software for remote workers allows team members to share and collaborate on a document. If the remote worker checks out a document to work on, then his or her team members need to be notified of this.