Working with a virtual employee sounds like a business partnership based in science fiction.
Up to 38% of positions in various industries today are remote. This freedom allows a business’s employees to work from home or while on the road.
The structure of these employment opportunities depends on the business in question, of course. You may wonder: if an employee doesn’t come into the office and punch the time clock, how is it possible to manage their time?
Luckily, there are a number of time tracking apps like Timeneye that allow a business’s employees to keep an eye on how many hours they’re spending on their projects. These sorts of apps are ideal for virtual project management. There are other ways, though, that you, as an employer, can go about ensuring that your virtual employee is as productive as possible.
As is the case when you’re working with any new employee, you’ll want to establish the expectations you have for your virtual employee early on in your relationship. This means that within the first email or two you exchange with your new employee, you should outline any rules or pet peeves you have regarding email structure.
You’ll also want to note the formatting of deliverables, your position on deadlines and their extendability, and so on.
Leave room for your new employee to ask questions, of course. Make sure, though, they have a skeleton of expectations to look back to, should questions arise without you being there to answer them.
Along with those expectations, let your virtual employees know how you’ll want them to communicate with you.
Will you expect daily reports about the work accomplished, or will you feel comfortable receiving a single report at the end of the week? What should the new employee’s communication with teammates look like?
Make it clear that you expect to be kept up to date on the progress, but don’t hover too much. A strong virtual employee should be fully capable of working independently. With luck, they’ll send you reports without you asking.
While emergencies do arise, as does illness or travel, you’ll want to be clear about various projects’ deadlines and how you prefer your virtual employee to address delays.
Allow for some flexibility: we can’t all have our lives perfectly planned out. However, if your virtual employee is consistently missing project deadlines and failing to communicate with you, then you may have to make a call or arrange to meet face to face in order to re-discuss your expectations.
No one has all of the answers to everything in the world.
All the same, your virtual employee will likely have questions about the various projects or simply about the day-to-day operations he/she’ll participate in.
Keep yourself open and available to answer these questions. Be sure, too, to let your virtual employee know that no question is a dumb question. It’s always better to ask, as you know, then to proceed with a project without all of the necessary information. Make sure your virtual employee feels comfortable approaching you, to avoid all sorts of delays to the projects you assign.
If you find that you haven’t heard from your virtual employee for a while, or the communication has gotten briefer, than you may want to check in.
You’ll want to make sure that he/she can still handle the workload you’ve assigned. Remind that communication is key to productivity when a person is working from home, and that without frequent updates you can’t stay on top of your business’s many projects.
It’s possible that you may have to adjust the workload you assign to a virtual employee based on any number of personal or professional factors. What matters is remembering that employee is a person. Even though you aren’t seeing them every day, they are as much a part of your office environment as anyone else on your team.
It’s also exceptionally important, when working with a virtual employee, for you to stay organized.
Make use of any email management programs, office suits, or time management apps, in order to keep track of the projects you’ve assigned. The two of you will have to work together in order to ensure that these projects are delivered to their respective clients on time. You, as your employee’s supervisor, don’t want to have lost track of a strand of work just because you forgot to log it in your computer.
Managing the projects that you assign to a virtual employee requires even more communication than in person – or so it may seem.
Where you may have normally chatted with your employee in the office, you’ll find that all of your correspondence is confined to email, Skype, or the like. Make sure you keep these lines of communication open: you’ll find that time management will come more easily to the both of you.
Cover photo via Stocksnap.io