Small Business Tips: How to Deal with the Risks of Remote Employees

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There are many reasons that small business owners might choose to hire remote workers. Bad credit, business financing that is tight, a desire to provide more freedom for staff or a need for employees in multiple locations are all plausible reasons why a business owner might forgo an office bound hire. In many cases, the benefits of hiring a remote employee make it worth any inconveniences that might arise, but that’s not t say that business owners should ignore or do nothing to safeguard their efficiency and takes steps to prevent lost productivity on the part of their remote workers.

Before you hire, make sure you get a real feel for your employee’s personal work style. Trying to shoehorn productivity into an easy to quantify, “one size fits all” method isn’t worth your time as a manager, and in general you should be more results oriented as opposed to a stickler for a particular process (with obvious exceptions for process-centric tasks). That being said, it will help immensely if you get a sense of how your employee works and their typical way of doing things through asking thoughtful interview questions. If you know more about how they like to work, you can more easily spot inconsistencies and manage expectations.

Make time for face time. Remote workers don’t usually need the same level of management as office employees, but that’s not to say that maintaining a relationship with them doesn’t require effort and work, as well as some back and forth skill sharing. If possible, have remote employees meet with you face to face at an appropriate level of frequency to touch base, present their progress and give feedback. If it is not possible to meet in person, set up a video call, which can substitute for actual face time in a pinch. A positive working relationship requires clear communication from both parties, and face time is much more effective than even a phone call, as you are able to express much more.

Manage priority clearly to avoid confusion. A skill that is essential when managing remote employees is the ability to prioritize tasks effectively. Since your employee will not be in the office to speak to whenever you need to, you should try to ensure that each task you give them and each piece of feedback is clearly articulated. If something is misunderstood or poorly thought out, it will take more effort to get your remote employee back on track than it would for an in office hire.

Photo Credit to Custom USB on Flickr

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