Millions of people now work where they live. This is not a trend, but an omnipresent and normal working model from which there is no return. In fact, most small businesses intend to continue working remotely even after the pandemic.
The transition to telework has not been without challenges and problems. Most companies had to adapt and virtualize quickly. They did not have the opportunity to review their options or optimize their commitment to work from home. As a result, many business owners are uncertain about the productivity and commitment of employees working from home.
How can you ensure that people do their jobs when they work from home? How do you motivate your team?
As the leading virtual customer center in Southeast Europe we have 5 years of experience with virtual employees working from home. Here are some tips:
Start with people
Virtual employees, but also employers, must understand that they are independently responsible for their own productivity. It is important to create a working environment that benefits everyone, not just one type of employee.
Any work arrangement, be it remote, personal, or a flexible combination of the two, will only be successful if everyone can give their best. The model you use should benefit every member of your work organization.
This is good news for small businesses. This means that your advantage lies with your employees and not with expensive virtual tools and aids. It also means that you need to adapt your model to your employees, and more importantly, you need to have the right people first – the right virtual employees and managers. In other words, it’s more important who works than where, when and how.
This assessment should begin during the recruitment and induction process.
FlexJobs recommends that candidates be asked the following questions:
- Have you ever worked from home? What was your experience?
- Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
- How important is personal communication to you?
- How do you manage your time and deadlines?
- How skilfully do you use virtual technology?
- What kind of home office facilities do you have?
- How do you take a break from work?
In general, people who are comfortable with teleworking share certain skills and personality traits. According to the Entrepreneur-Portal, the skills to be sought are self-motivation, self-discipline, strong communication skills, technological affinity, a high degree of compassion and previous work experience working from home.
Fortunately, these skills can be learned.
Find the right balance between your company and your workforce
As mentioned above, identify employees who are suitable for teleworking and provide them with the necessary tools and space. Then identify the people who are not well and provide them with additional training and support. Communication is critical for both groups, especially in jobs where teams are accustomed to smooth communication throughout the organization. The adjustment period may be a bit longer, but the rewards are just as great.
Apply a solid communication framework
Effective virtual personnel management depends on a combination of the right tools and the right mindset. You can have an excellent, motivated team, but if you don’t set it up well, they will feel lost and will not be supported, leading to their failure.
This is the time to think about your technology as well. You need software that allows you to collaborate virtually and communicate with the entire team and manage projects. You also need to ensure that each virtual employee has access to a computer equipped with the latest security software, high-speed internet, high-quality headsets, and other hardware necessary for their work.
Your communication strategy is equally important. If you can’t manage the minority in a virtual model, that’s another reason to find the right people who are disciplined and motivated. It is simply not possible to control each team member several times a day.
Instead, you must develop a recurring meeting format that replaces the “visible” manager. Sufficient opportunities for group meetings and one-on-one interviews should be created.
Don’t forget about meeting fatigue, which is improved by virtual technologies. Create a channel for ongoing work meetings instead of having all your meetings by phone or video. Tools like Slack and Khoros communities are great for this.
Remember that communication is more than managing people and projects. For a dispersed team, maintaining morale and organizational culture is crucial. Think about how to celebrate success, recognize employees and have fun at a distance. Over the Internet, these things do not happen automatically like in a normal office.
Link workforce management to measurable performance indicators
Working from home usually has a honeymoon period. During the first weeks or months, virtual employees feel full of power thanks to their newly established independence. Productivity remains the same or has improved. Communication channels are full of content with working and non-working topics.
And then things calm down. People no longer respond quickly to emails and phone calls. Work slows down. Before you know it, work is slower and the parameters are falling.
To prevent this, you need to measure productivity and take proactive incentives. Success in a remote work environment must be clearly defined and results-oriented. The manager and virtual employee should be able to obtain an objective scorecard with key performance indicators (KPIs).
KPIs should be tied to an individual or an entire department. For a call agent, a good KPI can be, for example, a customer satisfaction score, a customer lifetime value, response time or customer retention rate. For marketing or sales people, it is the customer purchase or conversion rate.
The more numerous, the better. Productivity cannot be a matter of speculation. After all, remote managers cannot walk around the office reading body language. I can’t check schedules to see who is not working hard. And virtual employees can’t always accurately assess their own productivity. Left alone, they can slip into poorer performance or, more often, push up too much and burn out.
Remember that remote workforce management always presents some challenges, regardless of how you measure and increase productivity. Know your workforce. Establish confidential relationships with your employees. Understand that some people need more support than others.
This doesn’t mean that remote workforce management is more difficult than “normal” workforce management. It is simple. In fact, if you implement these basic things, it may even be easier.