Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Making decisions about remote work, part of Managing Virtual Teams.
What is better than the ability to make decisions? The ability to make good decisions. When working with remote employees, this can often mean deciding when you can use remote employees to complete a task versus using local, more accessible staff members. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you make a good decision about when and how to use remote versus local employees. First, ask yourself what will it cost to utilize remote employees? For example, does the task require travel? Are additional tools required? These expenses might cost the company more if you decide to use a remote employee versus local resources if they are available.
If they are available, it might be worth shifting responsibilities to an employee who works in the central office. In contrast to this perspective, you should also ask yourself does the task require a person that has a strong and positive relationship with your client? Even though on the surface deploying a remote employee may present more cost in the short term, having a local person that has not developed a positive relationship with your client can actually cost you more in the long run.
Lastly, how much of your time as a manager will be required to oversee the work? If a remote employee takes on the task, will it require more of your time and therefore increase costs? So consider both the immediate surface costs, your time requirements, and the less tangible longer term costs when deciding whether to assign a task to a remote or local staff member. Next question to ask when assigning work to remote staff.
How much time is required to accomplish the task and what tools are needed? Tools are often critical to get a task performed efficiently and effectively so focus on basic logistical information to inform your remote versus local assignment decision. Start simple with things like the technical hardware, computers, network capability, printers, scanners, phones, etc. Then consider the big picture like milestones, deadlines, and any constraints.
If you are dealing with a time-sensitive task or project, you may not have the luxury to verify that your remote employee has all the necessary tools and materials or get all the necessary items to your remote employee in time. In this case, you should assign the task to a local resource or seek to renegotiate time frames to empower your remote staff member. Lastly, when finalizing the local versus remote assignment question, ask yourself who do I need or want to have doing this work? If your gut is telling you that a particular person is the one to deliver a project or produce the results that are needed, do whatever you need to do to get that employee involved.
If projects and tasks need to be reassigned in order for you to free up the perfect employee to perform the work, that is most likely the best thing to do. Considering the breadth of responsibilities and assignments you are managing, figure out what needs to be done to support your decision and your intuition. In case you didn't notice, there's a theme to these questions. They're all about requirements. While choosing to use a remote or local employee isn't a proven science, using the questions I have posed here could help clarify your thinking.
When you do have a choice to deploy a remote versus local team member, it is good practice to take time, focus on the requirements, and apply some discipline to your decision making.
Discover how to build rapport, set mutual expectations, communicate, connect, overcome conflict, get work done, and grow the team. Also included is a look at the top five challenges managers face in leading remote teams and helpful solutions that will get your team on track.
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