Best Practices for Overcoming Challenges in Managing Remote Workers | DCR Workforce Blog

Best Practices for Overcoming Challenges in Managing Remote Workers

As experts in contingent workforce management, we understand the benefits of remote workforces. We also understand the challenges of managing remote workers. As the percentage of people who work remotely increases, it becomes important for managers and HR departments to understand how to best engage with their remote workforces. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that around 33 million people in the U.S. work remotely at least half of the time that they work, and the number of remote and stay-at-home workers increased by 79.7% from 2005 to 2012. The number of contingent workers is predicted to reach 50% of the workforce by 2020.

At DCR, we believe in work-life balance. While we work hard, we also play hard. Through the company, we offer our employees the opportunity to adjust their hours and work schedules. Some departments and sites even offer opportunities for compressed workweeks and telecommuting. DCR is well-versed in the management of remote workers – a good chunk of our executive staff and senior management works remotely – for example, I work from home 90% of the time.

We also understand the growing need for freelance workers as companies strive to reduce their overhead or fill specialized positions requiring hard-to-find skills and experience. Additionally, with ACA penalties going into effect, we expect that many employers will elect to hire freelancers as opposed to full-time employees, to avoid the costs of expensive healthcare benefits, remain profitable and appease shareholders. The growing number of freelancers and remote workers means that companies need to revamp their business processes and practices to better manage these types of workers.

As SMEs on the subject of remote work, clients often ask us: “Who is the typical stay-at-home worker?” Well, on average, the typical remote worker is 49 years old, college educated and employed at a company with more than 100 employees. They earn an annual salary of $58,000, and are employed in the service industry.

Productive and happy workers

But I digress…the benefits of remote work have been widely broadcast by those who encourage and embrace it. These pros include increased productivity and flexibility, better work-life balance, lower commuting time and costs as well as fewer distractions. Opponents point to negative outcomes such as missed social interactions, reduced collaboration and difficulties in management and engagement.

As remote work enthusiasts, we recommend the following best practices to overcome challenges when managing remote workers…

Challenge: Collaborating and engaging with remote workers

Ask most managers with remote teams and they’ll say that the biggest challenge faced with managing remote workers is collaborating on projects and staying engaged with the company, while not being in the office. At DCR, to overcome this challenge, we utilize collaboration tools such as Skype to stay in touch constantly, SharePoint to work on files together and WebEx for video conferencing. To stay engaged, our HR department does a fantastic job communicating about events, encouraging us to participate in charity drives and sharing photos and videos from office happenings. To really effectively manage remote teams, companies should provide:

  • Mobile devices for work purposes
  • Access to work applications and technology needed on the mobile device
  • Applications for web conferencing, voice/video chat and instant messaging
  • Remote access to employee intranet or organizational portals
  • File synchronization/sharing
  • Access to technical assistance from in-house teams

Challenge: Complete workforce management of non-employees

Most HR technology systems are only set up to manage full-time employees. Which means that many companies are at a loss of how to truly manage their non-employee workers, engage them and gauge performance. Obviously, we recommend that companies consider utilizing a Vendor Management Systems (VMS) with capabilities that encourage collaboration and engagement.

Instituting a VMS can help to not only significantly reduce labor costs by helping to eliminate rogue spending and scope creep, but also help you save considerable amounts of time and effort by significantly streamlining work processes. Smart Track is unique in its ability to provide the same level of HR tools and management functions, as well as compliance solutions, in one platform to manage non-employees.

These tools provide an end-to-end technology that allow companies to source, recruit, onboard, manage, pay and off-board freelancers. Vendor management systems also help companies to improve labor compliance, scale a freelance workforce, generate new revenue streams and access talent pools. And within Smart Track, our gamification solutions are designed to make work fun, increasing user adoption and usage.

Challenge: Office design

With the growth of features in collaborative technologies and the bigger emphasis on work output rather than process, it makes sense for companies employing freelancers and remote workers to move away from the typical open offices, and create workspaces that give workers options – everything from cubicles to lounges to cafeterias. This gives workers the choice to work in the manner that fits them best. A New York Times article indicated that by 2020, the average amount of space per employee will drop down to 150 square feet (down from 400 square feet in 1985). Plus, according to the Harvard Business Review, 60% of employees aren’t even using the space allocated to them, mostly due to more workers opting to work remotely.

Yes, there are challenges that come from having a remote workforce, but these are easily overcome with some planning and the right technology tools. Do you employ remote workers? What challenges do you face and how are you conquering them?

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Neha is responsible for developing and overseeing marketing strategy and brand identity at DCR. She and her team collaborate on marketing and sales strategies and product development for new initiatives.