April 1, 2019

Remote Employees: Who Are They? Do I Need Them? How Do I Manage Them?

by Mary Newgard

There is no minimum distance that defines a remote employee. In fact, in today’s workforce anyone who works more than 50% of the time in a non-company office can be considered remote. For insurance, this even begins to describe field underwriting and claims roles given the territory and travel components. Therefore, this article will interchange the terms remote, work-at-home, virtual, and telecommuting quite frequently. They are one in the same in regards to importance and management.


from the Global Workplace Analytics analysis [updated January 2018]

Who Is a Remote Employee?

  • Regular work-at-home, (among the non-self-employed population), has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce.
  • 4.3MM employees (3.2% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
  • The typical telecommuter is college-educated, 45 years old or older, earns an annual salary of $58k and works for a company with more than 100 employees. 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65k/year.

Do I Need to Employ Remote Workers?

Yes, for three key reasons: 1) Offer the flexibility and benefits employees want, 2) Stay competitive in the workforce and 3) Increase employee retention.

  • 40% more U.S. employers offer flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. Still, only 7% make it available to most of their employees.
  • New England and Mid-Atlantic region employers are the most likely to offer telecommuting options
  • 50% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework. Approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.
  • Two to three days seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office)

How Do I Manage Remote Workers?

First, start by identifying people within your organization or hiring new employees that excel at managing off-site staff. Not every manager has this capability, so you need appropriate leadership for the policies to be fair, consistent and long-lasting.

Below are traits you should look for in a manager who can oversee a virtual workforce.

  1. Good Communication Skills. Using digital services and the phone are a must. Not everything can be relied upon email.
  2. Strong Teamwork Ethos. Building a shared understanding of what defines teamwork.
  3. Reliability. The manager does what they say they will do. This builds trust based on performance; trust has been described as the single most important component of virtual team management.
  4. Motivation & Reward. Virtual managers must work hard to ensure workers don’t feel overlooked or marginalized.
  5. Previous Remote Work Experience. Sitting in the same chair as the people they manage goes a long way to relating to their staff. They understand the positives and negatives of working remotely.


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