Remote work has taken off in the age of the smartphone, and the number of professionals working remotely continues to increase year after year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of people working from home went from 9.2 million to 13.4 million between 1997 and 2010, and businesses that let employees work from home regularly saw revenue growth of as much as 10%. IBM has indicated that teleworkers are drastically more productive than their office-bound counterparts, and Cisco has saved millions of dollars through its telework programs.
Restructuring your sales team to allow for greater telework opportunities can be a substantial boon, especially for team members who regularly have face-to-face meetings with clients. A telework infrastructure can boost productivity, especially en route to meetings. Here are a few quick tips on how to get the most out of telework opportunities and remote team members:
Remote and telework employees have little to no opportunity to learn about a company’s corporate culture through immersion, so training is essential. Make sure any new hire knows what makes a company unique, what its core products and competencies are, and what the company’s short-term and long-term goals are. While some training deficiencies can be glossed over with a sales team that primarily operates in-house, as the new employees will pick things up as they go, this can’t be neglected here.
Communicate as much as possible.
It can be much more difficult to maintain lines of communication with employees who aren’t in the office, but doing so is essential to their success, and in turn, the success of the company. Ensure that out-of-office workers can communicate with you quickly and efficiently, and make sure you monitor this mode of communication. Situations can arise for remote workers just as quickly as they can for those in the office, and swift guidance is important for new personnel in particular. Consider having a daily conference call with remote employees.
Don’t multitask when dealing with remote employees.
The temptation to multitask is great enough as it is, and when conducting a phone or Skype conversation, it can be even greater. Succumbing to that temptation, however, will damage your productivity with the remote worker as well as with the other tasks you’re attempting. The American Psychological Association has indicated that multitasking leads to significantly diminished performance, and the last thing anyone wants when dealing with the employees who most affect a company’s revenue stream is diminished performance.
Use technology to fill the gaps.
A geographically distributed team can have trouble communicating and meeting, and is at risk of taking redundant actions. Many technologies can diminish or eliminate these problems, however. A CRM system, for example, can diminish redundancy by logging interactions with clients. Online meeting tools can help with communication as well as scheduling. While getting employees to adopt these tools can sometimes be a challenge in itself, teams which use technology to the fullest often avoid the pitfalls of remote work and reap more of the considerable rewards.
Spend time building trust.
According to a study published in the Journal of Management Information Systems, teams that trust each other focus on the value they can provide for each other and the company, and approach tasks with greater enthusiasm. Building trust is harder for remote teams, due to the lack of proximity, but mustn’t be neglected. By communicating with each team member about their needs and their accomplishments, and encouraging team members to work with each other, you can improve the trust within the team.
What do you think?
Having a remote sales force can make it easier to get established in broader geographic regions, and letting employees engage in telework can reduce burnout and improve overall well-being. These tips should set you well on your way to having an efficient, effective team outside of the office.
Have you had successes with remote individuals or teams in the past? Do you feel one of our tips isn’t complete, or could be improved? Let us know what you think in the comments.