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3 common-sense ways to optimize your remote workforce

63% of companies currently employ remote workers1 – but amazingly, 57% of companies don’t even have a remote working policy2

That isn’t just shocking because it’s 2019. It’s shocking because that’s a whole cohort of smart, talented people working in ways that almost certainly don’t work for them. 

The good news is that more often than not, when remote workers are having a hard time, it isn’t just down to the tech they’re using. It’s actually down to simple, straightforward, entirely human mistakes and oversights. 

It isn’t that you don’t have a bridge to do conference calls with, it’s that the remote workers on those calls don’t feel like they’re actually part of the meeting. So let’s look at three common-sense moves you can make to accommodate your remote workers. 

1. Keep them involved

If you want to keep your remote workers happy (or keep them at all), start with the simple things like meeting etiquette.  

If you’re having an important meeting, or a discussion relating to their work, make sure you actually dial them in. 

It sounds obvious, but if they’re not there and you’re not in constant contact, it’s easy to forget. 

And the last thing a remote worker wants is to find an important strategic decision has been made on one of their projects while they were saying ‘hey are we still meeting’ on a different channel. It’s just rude. 

Here are two more simple things people forget when they’re dealing with remote workers.

Don’t sit in front of a brightly-lit window: you’ll look less like a friendly colleague and more like a terrifying silhouette. And if that’s all they ever see of you, they’ll have an odd impression. 

When you’re on a conference call, make sure they’re heard when they pipe up. If everyone else is in the room, it’s easy for someone remote to get drowned out.

2. Make remote working simpler

Simple for them also means simple for you – make sure your people can access the information they need, wherever they are, and whenever they need it. 

Collaborating through the cloud is standard for businesses now, and whether you use Microsoft Office 365 or G Suite, it’s never been easier to ensure remote workers can stay on the same page as everyone else. 

The thing is, if someone in the office can’t access a file, they can find a workaround. They can ask the folks around them or find the last person who worked on the file.

If you’re a remote worker and you can’t find a file because of the way the folders are set up or if someone forgot to save it to the cloud, your hands are completely tied. 

It’s frustrating, disempowering…and completely avoidable.

3. Don’t hound them!

Perhaps the worst thing you can do to a remote worker is to endlessly hound, micromanage and question them just because they’re not physically present

Nothing says ‘I don’t believe in your work ethic or trust that you’re working as hard as everyone else’ like constantly pestering a remote worker. 

And while a few people may respond positively to that kind of attention, it’s far more likely to engender contempt from their end and – counter-intuitively – make them feel less inclined to work hard. 

Instead, have a clear remote working policy so your mobile workers know what’s expected of them and how you expect them to make the most of their position. 

This clarity allows you to take a hands-off approach (or at least no more hands-on than with your on-site team), and show the trust that every remote worker deserves, while regular check-ins ensure they don’t feel too far removed from everyone else.  

At the end of the day, optimizing your remote workforce is just about treating them with as much care and respect as you treat everyone else. 

For more on making the most of your remote workforce, have a look at the different types of mobile worker and the benefits of hot-desking.

1 Upwork, Future Workforce Report, 2018

2 Upwork, Future Workforce Report, 2018