They include parents of young children, people who need to care for a relative who is frail or ill, a sales force that is out on the road or key staff based away from the office. Whatever the reason, planning is necessary to make it work for both parties.
While communication is essential, it is important to decide whether remote workers are going to be closely monitored or whether they are going to be empowered to deliver results without too much scrutiny.
Of course, remote employees will need some management to ensure the company is fulfilling its obligations as employer. But it is not always necessary to know that they are doing. More important, both parties need to know what is expected of each other.
The key is to establish parameters so both parties can work together and in particular to ensure the right level of support is in place. Essentially the level of freedom will be based on the level of trust but however much they are trusted to get on with their job, remote staff should be valued and included so they feel part of a team.
The right tools and regular communication
Remote workers will need the right tools to do their jobs, such as phones, online access and a PC or laptop, software, training and possibly a car.
Other considerations are whether they need to collaborate with colleagues, whether they can handle managing their own time and whether you expect them to work office hours or trust them to manage their own routines as long as they get the job done on time.
Are managers available if the need arises? Scheduled conference calls or meetings such as planning for the same time on the same day every week are a great way of ensuring a discipline is in place for regular reporting and communicating.
In many ways managing remote workers is no different from managing a sales team that is out on the road.
Essentially there need to be procedures and reporting systems in place for managers and remote workers to have access to relevant information, to be aware of each other and to spot problems early.
Getting it right can result in a loyal and dedicated workforce of people who feel valued. It is great for employee retention.