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How to Manage Home Workers - Five Top Tips

09/09/2014 14:54 BST | Updated 05/11/2014 10:59 GMT

According to the Office of National Statistics, 4.2 million Brits work from home. That's 13.9% of the total UK working population and a half a million increase since 2007. This means that, as a manager, you're more likely than ever to be managing a geographically dispersed team. This brings a whole new set of challenges and considerations. Here are my top tips for managing your home workers.

1. Do the paperwork

Before you can allow your staff to work from home you need to make sure all the relevant paperwork has been completed. Health and safety requirements still apply to home workers, and it's your job as their manager to ensure these are being met. Another key consideration is insurance; most people's home insurance doesn't cover working from home. You'll need to include them on the business insurance and provide accurate details, such as their address, to make sure that you comply with your policy.

2. Provide the tools

Home workers can feel isolated so make every interaction count by using the right tools. There are a wide range of collaboration solutions to enable them to do their job such as Instant messaging plus audio,web and video conferencing. It's worth the investment, as research shows that home workers can be up to 39% more productive when enabled with video conferencing, with access now available on a wide variety of devices such as PC's tablets and mobiles it may well cost a lot less than you think. In addition Cloud-based solutions can be a great way of deploying solutions in a cost effective way. Consider investing in a holistic cloud solution, such as Unified Communications as a service. Then your homeworkers and office based employees will get the same experience and be able to use a range of communications tools to collaborate effectively.

3. Treat them equally

Many home workers worry that a lack of 'face-time' will affect their career progression. They can feel out-of-the-loop when it comes to new opportunities. Managers can combat this by ensuring that team meetings and regular catch ups are held over video. Never underestimate the value of eye contact. The biggest thing remote workers miss out on is 'face-to-face' time but modern technology can correct this. It's also important to remember to invite home workers to important events such as team-building exercises and the Christmas party, so they feel part of the wider team.

4. Make training accessible

In a digital age, training resources should be available online so that employees can access them anywhere, anytime. This should include a portal where home workers can access video recordings of training sessions delivered on-site, to support written materials and bring them to life. This way you'll get better ROI for any training created or purchased. Access to training is also key in reinforcing employees' belief that their career progression won't be negatively impacted by working from home. You can also encourage your home workers to share their learnings with each other through an internal social network.

5. Monitor work-life balance

Home workers are more likely to overwork than underwork. This can be due to the fact that they suddenly feel their days are much shorter without the time spent on a regular commute. As their manager, you should encourage workers to keep a close eye on their time and output to help them develop a reasonable work-life balance and avoid burn-out. This will make sure your team is happy and productive and improve staff retention rates.

The shift to regular home working is already happening, so it's vital that managers are prepared for it. A combination of technology, process and attention to detail will make sure that your home workers are as productive, if not more, than their office-based counterparts.

Have you got any more top tips for managing home workers? Tweet me, @StoneCollab. I'd love to hear from you.