Research published in a 2012 MIT Sloan Management Review article indicates that companies with remote workers usually benefit from the set-up, while the actual telecommuters often draw the proverbial short straw. Indeed, companies reduce real estate costs significantly by allowing staff to telecommute; and the diminished headcount in-house allows managers to focus on those employees who really need managing. Yet the research shows that despite the vote of confidence implicit in allowing remote work, the lack of “face time” telecommuters have among their peers means they are statistically less likely to be promoted.
In a way this makes sense. People who arrive early at the office, leave late, and have a marked presence around managers often ‘seem’ like the kind of go-getters who might thrive in a more challenging role. But if their remote counterpart is just as effective, shouldn’t they be in the running for career advancement too? In a world where remote work is becoming increasingly common, we thought it was timely share three ways a manager can connect with remote workers to better understand and celebrate their worth.
1) Reconsider your criteria for success
“Dedication,” “dependable,” “committed.” Sometimes these words describe the essentials of an outstanding employee. But they might also describe a worker who is more “keen” than “capable.” An eager performer who is always on-hand and reliable may be very good at their job but does that mean they are ready for a more demanding role?
Many managers overlook their remote workers although have already shown the company that they do not need to be micromanaged and that they trust their decision making abilities. Telecommuters who are as productive as their in-house counterparts may be better suited to thrive in a more challenging role.
A clear-sighted approach to the management of remote workers should not be limited to promotions. Managers who acknowledge excellent performances irrespective of where their employees punch the clock, show that excellent work is truly valued across the company.
2) Add value to what little “face time” your remote workers get
Most remote workers occasionally spend time in the office, even if it is just once or twice a year. The arrival of these less-seen employees may be the ideal time for team-building. By scheduling training or social events around your remote workers’ visits to HQ, your centralized staff will gain familiarity with their colleagues. As a result, when the time comes to shuffle personnel or to promote, it will be expected that your remote superstars will deserve to be in the running.
3) Increase the visibility of remote workers
Touching base with your communications or marketing staff is an easy way to help remote workers feel connected to the company. Perhaps a high-achieving telecommuter can be featured in the corporate newsletter or on the company website—little touches like these can really help a remote worker feel like they are part of a team.
It is also worth remembering that telecommuters are not just separated from the central office, they are separated from one another too. Therefore, it may be useful to encourage your remote workers to connect with one another in a formal manner. Structured Skype dates and conference calls will encourage your remote workers to share best practices with each other and to troubleshoot any problems.
Acknowledging the value of remote workers is a managerial duty
As a manager, it is your responsibility to treat your remote workers fairly because their remote work benefits the company. In return for this work, your telecommuters should be able to expect and enjoy the benefits that their peers in the office receive as standard. Whether this means simply including remote workers in meetings over the phone or recommending them for promotion, it is good management to proactively connect with—and celebrate the value of off-site employees.