How to effectively manage remote and freelance workers
Remote and freelance workers are proving to be a very efficient and flexible source of talent in the digital age. Employers don’t incur the cost of providing technical hardware or office space for their external teams. This works for lawyers, accountants, HR firms, freelancers and many other types of workers including those in PR and communication management.
My marketing consultant production freelancers based in several different countries, mainly in Asia. PR consultancy Spin Sucks has been successfully using distance workers for 8 years. CEO Gini Dietrich is based in Chicago, and almost all of her consulting team members are located in various other US cities.
Nevertheless, managing these kinds of workers is a new frontier that traditional businesses are still navigating. Their staff management strategy requires revamping and significant flexibility to continue producing effective results. Here are three of the most important points to remember in effectively managing remote and freelance workers:
1. Ensure a proper onboarding process
Having a proper onboarding process is essential for any company bringing on new hires, but it’s twice as important for onboarding remote workers. A structured onboarding process is essential to introduce remote workers to office tools, company culture, and lines of communication as CNBC pointed out in a recent article.
Remote.co opened a discussion with various companies on how they conduct their onboarding for remote staff. Their process takes about three months, with physical meetings conducted in the first few weeks. Physical onboarding is important as an opportunity to align new workers with the company’s values and practices. This provides a sense of community for distance workers, and makes them feel loyal to the team, even if they don’t meet everyone in person. Introducing the right tools is another essential step. Software like Slack and Trello help employees work collaboratively even if they’re in different parts of the world.
Onboarding your hired freelance workers is a substantial commitment as well. A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine discusses the need to maximize the value of these professionals by treating them as a part of your team. It’s also a good way to foster open lines of communication. Keep in mind that for freelancers it’s important to clarify roles and expectations at the very start of the process to avoid any confusion down the line.
2. Hold regular face-to-face meetings
Face-to-face meetings shouldn’t just happen during the onboarding process. Regular meetings are critical to the engagement level of employees including remote workers. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with your office employees. According to Gallup analysis, only 15% of employees working for a manager who doesn’t meet them regularly are engaged in their work. When regular meetings occur, however, employees nearly triple their level of engagement. Regular face-to-face meetings are significant in providing feedback opportunities. It’s a chance for both sides to hear from each other to help them perform in the long run. It’s also a good opportunity for workers and managers alike to air concerns that can’t be communicated well through digital means.
Also do this with distance workers at least once or twice a year to maintain the personal connection. Try to meet with them weekly using digital means such as Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp. Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks team has a daily check-in via Slack and weekly individual meetings with Gini via Zoom. Team meetings are also organized via Zoom for brainstorming and joint purposes. They use Basecamp for project management.
3. Promote work-life balance
Remote employees and freelancers are prone to become overworked because they tend to compensate for not being physically present by being on call 24/7. This is why it’s critical to ensure your workers have a good work-life balance, especially if they are full-time employees. A white paper by Special Counsel on work-life balance notes how continually accessing work matters can severely impact professional lives. This leads to lower productivity. Remote workers tend to reflexively want to catch up on work every time they have their laptops open, which blurs the distinction between work and life. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to employee burnout and mental health issues.
Silicon Republic reminds all managers to facilitate a healthier balance between work and life for a team’s remote employees and freelancers. To curb the tendency of always being available, advise team members not to send emails late in the evening or during weekends. Encouraging your remote employees to make time for other fulfilling activities will prove to be productive for the company in the long run.