Within the United States, 37 percent of workers say that they have telecommuted. More than half of those who have tried remote work are college graduates who earn an annual household income of $75,000 or more. As more employers see their competitors turning to remote workers to meet challenging goals, the number of professionals who work remotely may grow even more in the near future.
Companies interested in this trend should learn about the pros and cons before deciding whether they want to commit to remote worker programs. Current research shows that the advantages usually outweigh the disadvantages.
If you decide that remote work is right for you, you'll also need to learn how to properly manage a remote team in to unlock their potential rather than give them a pass to slack off.
When they help lower the stress and improve the happiness of workers, companies can benefit from increased productivity and efficiency. Considering that employers lose an estimated $1.8 trillion from low productivity each year, it makes sense for companies to give employees opportunities that improve engagement and efficiency.
Hiring remote workers can also lower a company's real estate and operating costs. For example, when American Express started its BlueWork program, which allowed some employees to work from home, the company saved between $10 and $15 million annually while improving employee productivity.
Employers obviously need to worry about these concerns. Even though most research indicates that working remotely can improve a person's well-being and work performance, it does not work well for everyone. Some people may not have the right skills to stay on task without close oversight. While some may thrive outside of the office, others encounter problems that impair the employer-employee relationship.
Writers Make Great Candidates for Remote Work
In general, writers make great candidates for remote work because they need personalized environments to meet their goals. It's practically impossible for a company to provide the type of environment that each writer prefers. One person may do his or her best work while listening to loud music and pacing the room, while another gets the best results while sitting in a perfectly quiet office.
Writers need to approach their work from a creative perspective, so managers cannot expect them to perform in the same way as other professionals. The flexibility to take a walk outside, for instance, could lead to an insight that becomes a website's most popular blog post. Inspiration may also come from playing with pets, practicing an instrument or speaking out loud.
Companies don't want writers participating in these activities at work because they would distract everyone else. If managers force writers to follow restrictive policies, though, you could miss a writer's best work.
Strategies to Improve Team Cohesion and Communication
Given that remote workers may encounter some issues, managers should learn how to improve team cohesion and communication even when some employees rarely, if ever, visit the office. Luckily, today's technology makes it relatively easy for workers all over the world to collaborate with each other and stay in touch.
Communication tools that can keep remote workers connected to managers and other employees include:
Online chat and videoconferencing options like Skype and Google Hangouts
Weekly calls with the full team
Required quarterly trips to visit the company headquarters
Invitations to team retreats with sponsored airfare
Project management systems that track the progress of specific tasks
Management style can also improve team cohesion and communication. Managers should look for job applicants who have the experience and personalities needed to work remotely. Once hired, managers can keep in contact with remote workers via phone calls and emails. Establishing clear, quantifiable objectives and a chain of command can also help remote workers understand what employers expect from them.
Remote work may not match the needs of all employers and employees, but most people find that they benefit when they have access to the right technology and management.
Making your remote team doesn't mean sending your current employees away. You can sample the life of a remote work manager by building a remote writer bullpen using Scripted. Don't know what you need? Take Scripted's content marketing starter quiz to learn more.