Remote workers are increasing in popularity. Offering a flexible work arrangement, including an arrangement with a work-from-home remote option, to an employee may be the most important factor in keeping an employee on-board and engaged. Other factors, such as total compensation and an employee’s direct manager, are also extremely important, but neither is quite as powerful as a remote working option. This is even more true when the employee at issue is a working parent.

I have significant experience dealing with remote working environments. I worked for one company where our entire senior leadership team – including me as the general counsel – worked remotely. This arrangement worked like a charm and we achieve excellent results operationally and for our investors. I have also worked with a company where we had more than 50 percent of our staff working remotely. This company experienced solid profit margins and low turnover. More recently, I have been working with a business partner whom I have never met, with acceptable results so far.

This proliferation of remote workers means that as an employer, you must ensure that your employees are communicating effectively, collaborating with their on-site (or other off-site) teams, efficiently using your technology resources, and generally staying productive. Additionally, for legal liability reasons, you should make an effort to ensure these employees are being treated in the same way on-site employees are treated, e.g., same paperwork signed, same progressive discipline policy applied, same rules for logging on and off the system and for overtime, etc. The following five strategic tips may help you achieve optimal results with your remote team:

1. Meet on a regular schedule.

Unlike an office environment, where it is easier to “just swing by my office and catch up later”, in a remote environment it is essential to have a set schedule and to stick to it. This will not only improve communication, but also make the employees feel like they are part of the team.

2. Define expectations.

Defining expectations by having clear goals with timelines will enhance the management experience in a remote environment. Additionally, it is important that the employees are held accountable for meeting, or failing to meet, any such goals.

3. Leverage technology and create opportunities to meet.

You of course need to ensure your employees have the basic tools necessary to communicate, e.g., email, telephone, and file access. However, you may also experience greater success if you create opportunities to meet in-person periodically. This can be done thru video conferencing, Skype, off-site team meetings, or required periodic visits to the home office.

4. Solicit feedback.

Remote employees feel disconnected. Disconnected employees tend to be less engaged and less productive, but soliciting feedback from them may make them feel like they are more connected to your company. The more employees feel like they are part of the solution, the more likely they are to be engaged and productive on your behalf.

5. Measure productivity.

If you cannot measure a remote employee’s productivity, then you should not have a remote employee! This does not need to be anything fancy or expensive; your measurement system may be as simple as making sure you meet regularly to discuss progress against goals, or as complicated as company-wide software that is consistently measuring all employees’ performance. Such measurement tools will also be helpful to if you need liability protection down the line.

There is no one size fits all, but implementing these strategies should help improve the overall remote working experience for your employees, and be a better business model for you.

For assistance with your business, or any other legal matters, contact Fournier Legal Services at jfournier@jeflegal.com or 860.670.3535 now for a free consultation and planning session.