No matter the size of your company, effective workflow management is critical to keeping projects on-task and within budget. The more remote employees you have, however, the harder it becomes to keep track of their activities each day.
Here are a few tips for creating an effective workflow management system that works for remote workers:
1) Make sure all employees know how they can be reached outside of email. If an employee regularly checks Skype but not Facebook Messenger or some other platform, include communication instructions on each task so you don’t spend time trying to find him when he’s online via another platform. Employees should also communicate their preferred method of communication in this way so others can follow suit.
2) Create processes around what happens when no one responds via a task’s communication method. For example, if an employee has not responded via email to a project manager after 24 hours, the manager should send him another email and follow up with him on any other preferred methods of communication.
3) Make sure employees know where they’re expected to be during work hours. If you have a remote worker in France who is scheduled to answer emails from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST but doesn’t respond until 7:00 PM his time, he may not even realize there’s an issue since he isn’t working in accordance with the schedule you set for him when hiring him. Make sure all employees are clear about what types of communications will be acceptable at different points during the day so you should have fewer issues with employees working outside of business hours.
4) Make sure all team members know your company’s remote worker policies and how they will be held accountable if they do not comply. Document it clearly so no one is left guessing about what the consequences might be if their behaviour doesn’t reflect your values as a company.
5) Be sensitive to different time zones when scheduling meetings or requiring employees to check in with each other throughout the day. It can be frustrating for someone on Pacific Time who schedules a Skype call at 7:00 AM EST only to discover that half of his or her staff lives in another country and cannot join until 9:00 AM local time (or later). Consider letting employees work from home one day per week so they don’t get stuck taking a call or meeting at 1:00 AM their time on a regular basis.
6) Be flexible when it comes to remote work arrangements. If an employee needs to be out of the office for several days at a time, allow him to take longer lunch breaks and run other small errands during normal business hours while you handle his responsibilities for him. You will have more success with this arrangement if you keep his schedule as consistent as possible by continuing to provide regular feedback and holding team meetings that he can attend via video chat (or Skype group calls).