More organizations than ever are offering employees the option to work remotely, a benefit that can result in increased productivity and higher job satisfaction.

If you’re a manager experimenting with the practice, most likely you’re interested in reaping the wide range of benefits telecommuting options offer – more specifically, whether you can expect the same level of productivity from employees outside of an office environment.

To make remote work successful, it’s vital you establish a physical and virtual workspace that fosters efficiency, creativity, and communication with your team. Try these tips to create a flexible work environment that sets the stage for serious business.

Balanced Lines of Communication

The ability to communicate effectively with your team is crucial under any circumstances. On the other hand, one of the benefits of working remotely is working free from the distractions of the office. It’s important to create a communication system that is secure but not intrusive.

Before busy season strikes, have a frank conversation with each of your remote workers about how to balance the need for communication with the independence necessary to perform. Expectations should be dictated by an employee’s role. If their work is more collaborative, a “real-time” communication system, such as G-chat or Slack, is more appropriate. If their work is more independent, notes at clock-in and clock-out times are a minimally invasive option that can be extremely useful.

To track progress, you can ask employees to provide an overview of tasks for the day at clock-in, and a summary of tasks accomplished at clock-out. The latest remote worker management software, including Fingercheck’s newest employee timekeeping application, integrate notes into the clock-in system. Don’t forget to provide feedback to let your employees know you are listening. Even a simple acknowledgment can be helpful. Messages like “keep up the good work on (specified project)!” or “looks like a busy day–looking forward to seeing the draft!” can keep your workers feeling connected.

Go Over Document Organization and Tools

One benefit of allowing remote work is that employees may use the equipment they feel most comfortable with, potentially at no cost to you. Although you should offer remote employees any standard office gear–such as headsets, laptops, etc–you can also offer employees the opportunity to use their own tools. Mac laptops for all may be out of your budget, but if that’s what your employees got at home and wants to use, more power (and tax write-offs) to them!

Apart from what your employees use to do their work, security should be a high priority too. It is important to make sure that any confidential files are kept secure. Set up a pow-wow with your IT team to find a security system for file sharing and another potentially sensitive territory, and work with your in-office team to create–and regularly update–a list of programs and file types used for different projects. You can also organize login info for subscription-based services into one, easy to find location.

Health and Productivity

Regardless of whether your employees work at home or from the office, statistics show that health is important to maintaining a high-functioning staff.

While not everyone can afford a gym subscription, you can encourage fitness by setting up a low-cost, high-impact health and fitness initiative of your own!  Fitness bands, which are becoming less and less expensive, are a great way to track activity and inspire friendly competition.

Consider holding weekly or monthly step-count contests, and offer prizes for the most steps or a regular lottery for anyone who makes a minimum number of steps in a given time-frame.

Some other fun ideas? Challenge your employees to regularly drink their eight-glasses per day by sending out water bottles. Or, offer yoga balls to anyone up for some active sitting. These are relatively inexpensive ways to both encourage health and keep your team bonded, no matter where they are. Focus on challenges that encourage fitness without targeting or discouraging those who are less in shape.

Taking the plunge and offering remote work options to your employees? Check out our older blog posts for more on remote workers, and contact us if you’d like a free consult and demonstration of our “anywhere, anytime” time tracking solutions!

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