Managing a Remote Workforce

Technological advancements in recent years have enabled an increasingly large number of people to work from their home offices. This proves especially relevant to remote medical coding.

The development of secure internet access techniques, higher internet speeds, faster PC response times, improved telecommunication applications, and widespread use of electronic documents have all contributed to the rise of telecommuting. Forbes magazine reported in 2013 that one in five Americans work from home.

A mutually beneficial relationship

This trend continues to grow due to the many benefits to both the employer and the employee. Employers reduce facility costs and lessen employee turnover. Employees eliminate around 15 days of commuting time annually and thereby save somewhere between $1,600 to $6,800 in travel expenses.

Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their teleworkers. Contributing factors include fewer interruptions from colleagues, more effective time management, a greater sense of independence and personal empowerment, flexible hours and, of course, even longer hours. Around 90% of home-based workers say they are happier with the work/life balance even though they tend to work harder and longer.

(Telework Research Network)
Telecommuting is rapidly becoming one of most attractive benefits a company can offer," said Sean O'Brien, executive vice president of strategy and communications at PGi. "Our teleworking survey also revealed that 80 percent of employees consider the option a job perk."

But managing a remote workforce presents some unique challenges that must be met with some careful planning.

Communicate like they're on site

First, keep employee roles and responsibilities clearly defined with precise job descriptions, workload expectations and deadlines for completion.

Ensure that the required remote access to applications and documents is established and working. Develop an IT infrastructure that minimizes downtime and maximizes response time. Establish a protocol for troubleshooting, questions, and timely communication:

  • Who to contact
  • When they are available
  • When to expect a response

Set clear performance expectations

How will the quality and productivity of work be measured? What are the standards? How frequently will performance be measured? What will the impact be of sub-standard performance?

Provide ongoing training and feedback

Initial training should focus on the changes the employee will face by working remotely. Ongoing training will be required for any changes in rules and company policies. As company systems and applications are upgraded or replaced, the remote employee will require orientation on how those improvements affect their job and workflow. Utilize technology for remote training sessions such as WebEx and teleconferencing. Employee performance discussion should be frequent and a schedule should be established. Monthly or weekly reviews of quality and performance should replace annual reviews.

Keep remote employees engaged

One downside of a remote workforce is that the employees no longer feel as connected to their employer or supervisor of co-workers. This can be corrected by creating opportunities to interact remotely.

  • Create an employee chat room where they can socialize and share work experiences and stories.
  • Set up weekly conference calls with employees and encourage them to ask questions and share best practices.
  • Create an employee recognition program.
  • Encourage employees to have a personal photo on their email signature line for a personal touch.
  • Send out weekly employee updates to fill the void of workplace social interaction.

With the proper planning, employers can take advantage of the many benefits of telecommuting for their employees resulting in lower costs, increased employee satisfaction, higher productivity, and reduced turnover.

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