How to Handle a Remote Worker

Julie Shenkman
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For a human resources professional, it can be challenging to integrate a remote worker into the existing company system. After all, many telecommuters never see the inside of the office, and some may even live across the country or the world. For many companies, remote employees require the establishment of new policies and procedures.

With the widespread availability of online communication tools like video conferencing and Web meeting software, telecommuting is an increasingly viable option for companies of all sizes. In 2013, one in five Americans worked from home, and the numbers are increasing rapidly.

In many companies, the human resources department is not set up to handle offsite employees. Paperwork is one of the first obstacles you will encounter when onboarding a new remote worker. Instead of a physical packet of forms and handbooks, you'll need to prepare a digital version. Chances are, your forms currently exist as separate files. Before you email them to a new worker, arrange them into groups and create a PDF from each group; in doing so, you can send fewer email attachments and decrease confusion. If you don't already have it, you may need to create a guide to each form to help remote workers fill them out accurately.

Before you take on a remote worker, it can be helpful to think through the existing processes and find ways to make them work online. If you usually hold a meeting with an employee to discuss policy and corporate culture, for example, consider scheduling a video conference. The same holds true for trainings and orientation sessions. Be sure to edit the content to make it relevant to the telecommuter. Talk about the dress code during video meetings with clients, for example, or explain the online collaboration tools that are in place for inter-office communication. In doing so, you'll make the remote worker feel like a valuable part of the company from the start.

As a remote worker settles into a new position, time tracking can be an issue. When employees work without physical supervision, it can be tempting to require too much reporting from them, particularly when they work by the hour. Unfortunately, doing so creates a culture of mistrust, which alienates workers and drives them away. Instead, create a telecommuter-friendly version of your existing time tracking system—or use an online app—and introduce it like any other company policy or tool. By establishing this trusting relationship from the start, you can avoid making remote employees feel even more disconnected from the company.

In the beginning, handling a remote worker requires a considerable amount of work. Once the new systems are in place, however, taking on new telecommuters will be just as easy as working with traditional employees.



(Photo courtesy of (franky242)/freedigitalphotos.net)

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