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Remote Employees - 8 July 2008

Remote employees are those who work from home, or on a different floor, a different site, or even from a car. Managing remote employees is just like having them stranded on a desert island. Instead of being separated from civilisation, they’re separated from head office, so what people do to survive on a desert island are the same things remote employees need to perform and be engaged.

Review resources: Top of the list for desert islanders is to take stock of what they’ve got, such as radios and maps. Resources are top of the list for your remote employees, too. Make sure they’ve got easy access to manuals, stationery, and people.

Start a fire: Desert islanders use fire to cook food and stay warm. The equivalent of fire for remote employees is technology. Having fast and reliable computer systems, email servers, and phone services are paramount for remote working to be successful.

Build shelter: Desert islanders need to build a safe place to sleep. Your remote employees need a similar safe place to work. Make sure that their workspaces are ergonomic, conducive to high productivity, and have safety protocols in place.

Find food and water: A primary goal for a desert islander is to find food and water – the basic necessities for survival. The basic necessity for remote employees is feedback. Hold coaching sessions which focus on results. You’re not there to monitor how and when they work, so your expectations need to be explicit, objective, and clearly understood.

Make contact: People stranded on a desert island use mirrors, radios, and flares to desperately make contact with rescuers. Communication really needs to be ramped up when you’ve got remote employees. Make the most of tools like the telephone, instant online messaging, and video conferencing to stay in touch.

Become acquainted: Eventually if no help arrives, desert islanders need to become friends with their fellow animals – as must your remote employees with their peers. Hold frequent team meetings, maximise interaction between your remote employees and their colleagues, and encourage them to visit the office occasionally. Nothing beats face-to-face.

Remote working is undoubtedly the way of the future. But just because they’re out of sight doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. Don’t leave them stranded.

 

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