Inspiring Productivity and Connection with Remote Workers

Written by Maggie Tiede
Written by Maggie Tiede

Maggie Tiede is a writer and blogger based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Maggie has worked as a freelance writer since 2013, when she began reporting on politics, local events, health, and human interest for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.

Female interior designer in home office writing business plan

Offering the option to work remotely helps you attract and retain top talent. But it also comes with new management challenges. Without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, it’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected and unappreciated.

These strategies will help you avoid dysfunction and make the most of remote work, inspiring your employees to be more productive and creative than ever before.

Use Technology to Stay Engaged

There are seemingly endless technology solutions on the market to help remote workers stay engaged and productive. The most essential of these include:

  • Video conferencing for interviews and meetings
  • Group chat and instant messaging for quick questions and friendly socializing
  • File sharing tools that allow for easier (and more secure) transfers of documents, spreadsheets and other files
  • Collaborative editing tools that allow coworkers to make changes in real time
  • Creative suites for graphic designers and other artists
  • Research tools and databases relevant to your business’s sector

Because so many different versions of these tools are on the market, it’s helpful to solicit feedback from your remote workers about what’s working and what’s not. They might suggest alternatives to software they find clunky and inefficient.

Bring Your Own Device Policies: A Mixed Bag for Remote Workers

Asking remote workers to use their personal devices for work might seem like a smart cost-saving measure, saving you thousands of dollars in laptop, phone and tablet purchases. But in many workplaces, it creates more problems than it solves. 

  • Employees might not be able to afford a computer, phone or tablet that’s fast and powerful enough to do their jobs properly, leading to shoddy work.
  • Older devices that haven’t been properly updated could lead to a major cybersecurity breach.
  • “Crossing the streams” of work and personal use can cause embarrassing mix-ups with clients and coworkers.

If your company does choose a BYOD policy, make sure that you offer proper cybersecurity training and consider offering reimbursement for devices that are lost or damaged due to work use.

Set Tangible Goals (and Don’t Forget to Follow Up)

Outside the physical limits of the office, it’s easy for remote workers to slack off—and just as easy for their managers to fall into unproductive patterns of micromanaging. The key to avoiding both of these scenarios is to set tangible goals and stay accountable for them, building trust and motivation over time.

If a remote worker’s main job is to handle customer service complaints, then their manager might set a goal for how many complaints should be handled daily. For roles with less obvious metrics, get creative and collaborate.

Good, generative questions to ask might include:

  • What business needs merited the creation of the role in the first place?
  • What would stellar, promotion-worthy performance look like in this role?
  • Would would bad performance look like? What might lead to a performance improvement plan (PIP) or firing?
  • What is the employee’s vision for the role?
  • How does that match up against the business owner or manager’s vision?

Once these goals are set (and preferably written down), managers should schedule regular check-ins via email, phone or video conferencing. These check-ins should be appropriately spaced: not so far apart that they feel rushed, but not so close together that they interrupt an employee’s workflow and cut into productive work time, either.

Create a Productive Workspace Free from Distractions

One of the most important expectations to set for remote workers is that their workspace should be properly equipped and remain free of distractions.

Barring emergencies, remote workers need to have reliable phone and internet access, and should respond to communications promptly. They also shouldn’t make a habit of caring for children, pets and other dependents during work hours, outside of rare circumstances like illness or a school cancellation.

On the other hand, extra flexibility is one of the biggest perks of remote work. Trusting your remote workers to know their situation best can pay serious dividends in loyalty and goodwill, so it’s wise not to nitpick their workspace too much, unless you believe it’s causing performance issues.

After all, your average office worker faces plenty of distractions, too. Working out of a coffee shop isn’t that much different from dealing with the hustle and bustle of an open office plan!

Keep Data Secure with VPNs

Your remote workers’ home or coffee shop Wi-Fi could be a huge cybersecurity liability if it’s not configured correctly. An easy way to get around this is to require the use of VPNs, or virtual private networks.

When employees sign into a VPN, they’re connecting their devices directly to your company’s secure network. This means that they don’t have to shoulder the burden of creating a secure network on their own—and you don’t have to shoulder the liability for any cybersecurity breaches that could result from an improperly secured connection.

There are plenty of companies that offer VPN services to small businesses. Shop around to find one with a plan that works for you.

Most Importantly, Think Outside the Box

As remote work grows in popularity, new tools and norms are being created faster than offices can keep up. This is a blessing in disguise, since it means there’s no one “right” way to do remote work. You’re free to build a unique system that works for you and your employees.

Be open to feedback and willing to seek creative solutions to problems, and you’ll be already be well on your way to creating a thriving remote work culture.

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