How to manage remote workers successfully

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says nearly one-quarter of employed Americans perform some or all of their work remotely. For companies, the result isn't just happier workers and reduced office costs. It's also new and different management challenges, according to guest writer Tricia Sciortino.

"Fewer business leaders question that virtual work promotes cost savings, ramps up performance, and deepens employee retention," Sciortino says. "But, a major question remains: How can we onboard new offsite talent to ensure they stay the course, perform according to corporate values, produce as expected, and integrate well with other distributed team members?"

Although technology makes remote working possible, the answer, according to Sciortino, isn't more of it; it's less.

"Virtual teams rely on technology and embrace its capabilities for connection, access, and collaboration. But, one of the most important lessons I've learned is that back-and-forth emails mean the message -- whatever it may be -- is not getting through," she continues. "Someone needs to pick up the phone or get on a webcam meeting. Online dashboards and communication platforms have their place, for sure. However, old-fashioned, timeless talking cannot be replaced. Speaking with each other -- and seeing one another, even if remotely -- clarifies matters, prevents missteps, and resonates with so much of what still works for us as real people."

Because verbal communication is so important, managers should try to meet in person with remote workers on a regular basis, if possible.

"It helps to ingrain face-to-face gatherings into the operational DNA of an organization," Sciortino concludes. "At the very least, when the central, or corporate, players can convene on a routine basis, it helps to reinforce purpose and unity. If strategy and budget allow, it can only be beneficial to take this practice to the next level, creating ways for all team members to meet, greet, network, and learn together in the same physical space."

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