Don’t Rule Out Remote Workers—Get the Most from Your Remote Staff

May 9, 2019

It’s easy to assume remote workers aren’t as dedicated to the job as their on-site peers. For some bosses, working hard is synonymous with being in the office. But that perception is misguided and harmful. If remote workers perform just as well as their on-site counterparts, withholding remote privileges could damage a company’s ability to hire and retain top talent.

TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking software company, recently conducted two surveys to find out more. In the first, remote workers and managers of remote workers were asked to share their habits and assumptions and answer, once and for all, one crucial employment question: Are remote workers as valuable to employers as non-remote workers?

Remote Workers Take Breaks, but Bosses Aren’t Worried

If you’ve held back from hiring remote workers or allowing current employees to do some of their tasks from home because you’re afraid they might occasionally leave their desk, chances are you’re right. But that fact really shouldn’t bother you.

Seventy-seven percent of remote workers take care of personal tasks during their workday. What’s more, nearly 40 percent said they spend an hour or more a day on those personal tasks, even while on the clock.

But employers say they’re well aware of this. In fact, one-third of them thought their remote employees were working on personal tasks for two hours or more each day—a considerable piece of an eight-hour shift! So, why aren’t employers calling their remote employees back into the office? Let’s discuss.

Remote Workers Overdeliver

Employers say many of their remote workers are outperforming their in-office peers.

Who knows what many remote workers are doing for an hour or more a day? Walking the dog? Running a load of laundry? Picking up the kids from school?

Even with such personal distractions, employers surveyed say many of their remote workers are outperforming their in-office peers. More than half (59 percent) said their remote workers’ performance was “above average,” while 36 percent rated their remote workers’ performance as “average.”

It’s worth noting that while 95 percent of bosses felt their remote workers’ performance was on par or better, many still hope for more. While 54 percent of employers rated their remote workers as “highly productive,” 41 percent said they thought their remote workers could be even more productive.

How to Make Remote Workers More Productive

Is the workplace becoming more distracting? Find out in our free infographic.

In the second TSheets survey, employees were asked to evaluate all the reasons they might be unproductive in the office. The three worst offenders—talkative coworkers, interrupting coworkers, and sick coworkers—aren’t common problems for remote workers.

But if your remote workers aren’t performing as well as you’d like, consider methods other than nixing their remote privileges to drive productivity. It’s possible their remote status has nothing to do with their performance—otherwise, all your in-office employees would be knocking it out of the park 100 percent of the time, right? Instead, here are a few easy tips you can try.

Encourage the right kind of brain breaks.

In 2017, Psychology Today wrote that breaks can help with physical and emotional fatigue, decision-making, and motivation. You already know remote workers are taking breaks, but are they taking the right kind of breaks?

Rather than reprimanding employees for taking 30 minutes to walk the dog, you should embrace such breaks as a chance for them to reset their brain and return to work refreshed. Meanwhile, discourage breaks that require high levels of concentration, like personal planning or problem-solving, as these will continue to exhaust the mind and drain productive energy.

Clarify your remote workers’ objectives.

When asked what might help them get more work done, 55 percent of employees in the TSheets unproductivity survey said they’d be more productive if they had clearer objectives. Sometimes, getting workers to be more productive means clarifying what you might have thought was already crystal clear.

Sometimes, getting workers to be more productive means clarifying what you might have thought was already crystal clear.

Before you talk to a remote team member about their performance, make sure they understand their objectives and goals. Do they know what their metrics are and what they have to do to meet those expectations? Is there another team member who is reaching goals and might be willing to share their tips for success in person or over a video conference call? Is the remote employee being coached like any other employee to achieve the results expected of them?

Offer even more flexibility.

If there’s a performance issue, offering more flexibility might sound backward. Why would anyone reward poor performance with even more freedom to perform poorly? But as long as the person you’re dealing with isn’t deliberately trying to underperform, this could be the solution.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they’d be more productive if they had more flexible hours. If your remote employees are expected to maintain a strict schedule, consider making those hard start and stop times more fluid. A worker’s peak productivity times may differ from day to day, so allow your remote employees to follow their productive energy and put in their time when they feel most in the zone.

Trust and Appreciation: Remote Workers Deserve Both

If your remote workers are performing well (and the numbers show they likely are), don’t forget to tell them you noticed. Most remote employees know they’re productive and good at their jobs, but many aren’t sure the boss knows it. While 99 percent of surveyed bosses said they trust their remote employees to work independently, only 72 percent of employees said they felt that trust.

Treat your remote workers like any other member of your team, with supportive coaching and well-deserved praise. Do that and the remote work opportunities you offer won’t just bring in and retain top talent—they could help you discover your very best performers.

About the Author

Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She has a BA in English literature and has spent her career writing and editing marketing materials for small businesses. She recently started an editorial consulting company.

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