Tips for Managing Your Virtual Workforce

The face of the American workforce has been changing. These days many companies seldom see their workers, as most employees work almost exclusively from home.

Many managers agree that virtual work saves organizations a great deal of money and actually increases productivity. However, virtual work creates new risks for any organization.

When your employees begin working from home, you must implement new policies and procedures to help keep your virtual workers safe and productive when they’re working at home. Here are seven tips to help you better manage your virtual workforce:

  • Update each employee’s job description and include current essential job functions that reflect his or her home-based work. As difficult as it is to police, ensure that you develop written policies and procedures around the use of social media.
  • Discuss the appropriate insurance and decide who pays for it. Also, set ergonomic standards for home offices. Visit your employee’s home to ensure that their workspace is appropriate. Is the work area separate from the rest of the family? Is it well designed or is the computer sitting on a milk crate? Your employee’s equipment should be appropriate to the task, so make sure that your employees use appropriate desks, ergonomic keyboards and well-fitted chairs.
  • Some companies supply the equipment themselves, however, others want their employees to pay for their own, believing the employee’s initial investment is a trade-off for the savings he or she will reap in reduced gas and vehicle maintenance costs.
  • After your initial visit, continue to communicate with your employees and make adjustments as needed. Implement an annual reminder checklist for employees working from home, addressing fire and life safety issues as well as data security or other concerns.
  • Do not assume virtual employees work only from home. One survey found that virtual employees worked at three or four different locations. As well as home, these locations might include parks, beaches or coffee shops. Consider potential security issues at each of these locations and develop policies to protect your data and your employees.
  • If employees report to the office for any part of the day, for example for a meeting, many managers require them to stay for the entire day. This reduces commuting risks and arguments over whether commuting time is compensable.
  • Ensure that virtual workers know what to do if they hurt themselves at home. They should know the location of the nearest industrial clinic and understand your specific injury-reporting requirements. After an injury, the employee’s job description provides the treating physician with critical information to assist his or her return to work in a modified-duty position. It also helps to determine if the injury arose out of his or her work on behalf of the company or whether it resulted from household work. You do not want to pay injury claims if they are not work-related.

In today’s economic environment, the virtual workforce will continue to expand. With some preparation, you can help keep virtual workers safe in their homes and increase productivity as well.