The Challenges of Managing Remote Workers // June 6, 2018

remote-workers

Remote workers have become very popular in the tech startup sphere due to a broader pool of talent available to your business and the reduced costs in employing them (hello, drastically cheaper overheads). But it’s not just great for budding companies; it’s also proven to be great for employee morale, stress levels and overall job satisfaction, meaning better employee retention.

Hiring remote workers looks like a win all-round, but there are some pretty big challenges to overcome to ensure your remote workers are an asset and not a drain on your business.

Work Efficiency

Some studies show that remote working can increase employee efficiency by up to 77% if they regularly work offsite. But it’s hard not to take that with a pinch of salt when the survey specifies that it is self-reported by offsite workers.

Ensuring you’re actually getting the most out of full-time remote workers is more difficult to quantify than those that work onsite part-time; there’s something to be said for being able to see someone completing an assigned task in front of you. Small tweaks to work can become difficult to communicate and the nuance of saying work isn’t quite up to scratch can get lost via email, leading to a dissatisfied worker.

In order to get the best from remote workers, you need to have a clear system of task assigning, feedback and accountability in place. This might mean that, as a manager, you spend most of your day on email answering questions or assigning tasks for next week. However you decide to handle remote workers and their workloads, it’s important that lines of communication are always open, flow both ways and include positive feedback.

working-from-home

Health and Safety

Working in tech, most remote employees are likely to be desk-bound but that doesn’t remove your responsibility as a business to ensure they’re safe. Office health and safety encompasses trip hazards, RSI and other health problems that can come from working with an incorrectly setup computer, seat or desk.

Your main concern will not be for workers who work from home part-time; the focus will be on those who spend most of their working hours remote. For these people, at a minimum, you’ll have to provide information on how to set up a safe office environment and, at most, you’ll have to supply them with equipment. For example, if you require your employee to answer the phone and type on the computer, you’ll need to supply them with a phone headset to avoid neck injury.

Depending on the agreements made with your remote workers, you might supply computers or other electrical equipment that will need to be installed properly and PAT tested regularly. Failing to do so could lead to injury, and yes; you’d be liable for the accident.

Data Protection

It’s been absolutely everywhere, so to be unprepared for data protection and GDPR for remote workers would be a bit silly. However, even before these new rules, data protection was super important, but knowing where to start is difficult if you’re new to the world of running your own company.

Protecting sensitive information and providing it to remote workers is a challenge – you have to provide easy access for a worker that is also secure enough that no breaches happen.  28% of data breaches occur because of human error, so the best place to start is implementing a process of data handling that minimises the risk of this as much as possible, such as double checking email addresses before sending information. After that, you need to take steps to ensure that your remote worker’s computer is not accessed by anyone but them, or that they have a secure, separate account on the computer that no one else can access. You should also provide guidance on things like logging out or locking the computer every time the worker is away from their desk and ensuring they don’t use public Wi-Fi network, but a private one secured by a strong password.

If you are a data handler you’ll likely be up to date with the best firewalls and other digital forms of data protection, but revisit your industry guidelines to ensure you meet all criteria is your data now has to be accessed from multiple locations.