Nearly 40% of the world’s employees now work remotely, studies show, and experts believe that number will only grow over time. “This is not a trend that’s going away,” says Kevin Sheridan, author of The Virtual Manager. “This is the trend of the future, and as long as it’s set up appropriately, this is going to be successful.”
What’s more, a recent Gallup survey suggested most remote employees are actually more productive than on-site workers. “Of the people that have worked remotely, 81% of them said, ‘Yes, I am more productive.’ And pollsters asked them, ‘Why are you more productive in your pajamas?’ They said, ‘Well, I wasn’t being interrupted like I was in a corporate environment,’” Sheridan says.
Data shows the average American worker is interrupted as many as 60 times each day in the office. “That’s what I call a thief of productivity,” Sheridan says. “But probably the more telling statistic is that, of the 60 times each day that person is interrupted, only 40% of the time they get back to the task at hand.”
What’s the key to successfully integrating remote employees and making sure they’re engaged with the home office? Regardless of experience level and employee traits, Terrence Gargiulo says outlining company rules and procedures with remote workers – and discussing them on a regular basis – is crucial to off-site success. “Set strong expectations, a written standard operating procedure, and then work collaboratively,” says Gargiulo, organizational development consultant and president of makingstories.net. “Don’t just have it as a first conversation. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to have a life.”
Gargiulo suggests that employers should be open to input from remote workers as to how those procedures and expectations are established. “You don’t want it to work one way,” he says. “You want them to have some say in how they structure the work arrangement and any expectations they have and needs they have of you.”
Sheridan agrees that clear instructions and regular updates from off-site people are important. “Make sure they have specific goals for each week, and then tell them that you expect an update with progress on those goals,” he says. “That regular checking in is so important. It shouldn’t be from a co-worker, but from the manager that eventually is going to do the performance evaluation.”