Employers should not assume that someone who is a good worker will automatically be successful as a remote employee. Productive telecommuting involves mastery of certain skills beyond industry knowledge. The positive news, however, is that people can be taught to be more adept at off-site work, and employers who take the initiative reap the benefits.

For employees who are used to the daily grind of commuting and being in an office from 9-to-5, it can be a steep learning curve to thrive in a remote work environment. A recent report from the Flex Strategy Group highlighted some key findings on this topic.

While many workers have some sort of flexible work arrangement with their employers, the majority (57%) didn’t have any training or guidance on how to handle working remotely. Add to that the fact that employees who did receive training reported feeling more productive and engaged (70%), as opposed to those who weren’t trained (53%). Plus, having formal training boosted employees’ abilities to communicate, create, and be innovative with their coworkers (53%) versus those who hadn’t received any help (39%).

That’s why it’s up to management to set them up for a successful transition from the office to the home office.

These tips can help you train employees to work remotely:

Phase it in.

Unless your company suddenly needs to be 100% remote, try implementing your workers’ flex in phases. For example, you might test remote work at your company by starting some employees working remotely one or two days a week, so that they can get a feel for what it’s like, particularly those who have never worked remotely before. Then, check in with them to see what they feel they need in order to work more effectively (such as better collaboration tools, more communication options, etc.)

This gives your workers the safety net of still being able to come into the office while all of the kinks are being worked out, but also enjoy the work-life balance of being able to work remotely.

Teach technology.

Remote work frequently involves using modern technology to communicate and collaborate. However, people come to remote work with varying degrees of competency. Do not assume everyone knows how to video chat or fully understands how Slack channels work. Rather, devote time early on to the set-up and mastery of tools that are important to your business.

Having in-office trainings can be far more effective than expecting your workers to automatically know how to navigate the tools when they are alone and working on their own. Plus, it also can give you insight into what tools your employees are automatically attracted to, which ones they aren’t really grasping, and how to make it all work.

Provide guidance.

Having a flexible work policy shouldn’t involve a “sink or swim” mentality. Let your employees know that you’re there for them if issues arise or they need help. Feeling that they can reach out if they are having tech issues, for example, or are just getting used to working remotely can set the stage for solid, streamlined communication down the line when your employees are completely remote.

Also, consider assigning a mentor to new remote employees. Current remote workers are an awesome source of knowledge and support for new telecommuters. Their first-hand experience can serve as a rich resource for the challenges faced by off-site employees at your specific company.

Check in.

It’s a good idea to schedule check-ins with your team as well as each individual worker to assess how they’re doing on both a professional and personal level. Telecommuters may not be quick on their own to recognize and rectify areas that could use improvement. Providing convenient handbooks, tutorials, webinars, and other educational tools dealing with issues such as time management, organization, and communication demonstrates your company’s seriousness about developing skills that aid in remote performance.

On a personal level, if one of your workers feels lonely being remote, encourage them to connect with colleagues outside of the office or take advantage of some of the more social aspects of the communications tools you’ve implemented to still feel that camaraderie they’re craving. Then, help them see the positives of remote work, such as the ability to have better work-life balance, and remind them that they can always reach out to you at any time for guidance. That way they’ll understand that in a remote work environment, out of sight is never out of mind.

Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

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