How to Choose an Employee to Pilot Your Remote Work Program

In this guest post, our friends at Remote Year share their top tips for selecting an employee to test drive your remote work initiative.

As technology and digital communication advances, location independence has become a much-requested benefit at organizations of all sizes. From Fortune 500 companies to small businesses, employees are searching for more flexibility. Enter remote work: the go-to solution for achieving the ideal work-life balance.

If your organization is considering implementing a remote work program, there are several questions to consider, including how to choose an employee to pilot your remote work program. Not everyone is suited to work remotely. Those who can do it successfully often have innate characteristics that allow them to excel in a flexible environment and break out of the mindset of a traditional employee.

So, how can you choose the right employee to kickstart your remote work program? Here are four questions to keep in mind as you start vetting candidates:

1. Is he or she already performing well?

There is no better indicator for an employee’s potential success as a remote worker than their current performance.

Successful remote employees are typically already well-regarded and respected within an organization. They are trusted and relied upon—and for good reason. They are not the type of employee who will let things fall through the cracks or ignore problems when they arise. They are intent on success, eager to learn, and determined to make their mark on the world.

2. Would you consider him or her a self-starter?

In order to be successful, remote employees need to be able to prioritize and finalize their work without any significant hand holding. Since they are no longer working down the hall in a traditional office environment, it is up to them to take responsibility for the work that comes across their desk. They will need to adhere to strict deadlines and coordinate with other team members (who may not be remote) in order to execute on important projects.

3. Is he or she a creative problem solver?

Remote work does not present the same types of problems that in-office work does. Employees who work outside of the office may find that they are put into situations they haven’t experienced before, like instances of miscommunication, feeling disconnected from the larger team, and technical issues. Fortunately, a great remote worker can overcome these challenges without too much external support.

4. Does the role lend itself to remote work?

Could your employee actually do his or her job outside of the office? While so many duties can be taken care of online in today’s world, it’s still an important factor to consider. As a general rule, if 80 percent of an employee’s tasks can be done from a phone or a computer, their role likely could be transitioned into a fully-remote position.

Evaluating Pilot Program Results

Now that you have gone through a selection process, chosen an employee to become your pilot for your remote program, and have agreed on goals and progress checkpoints with that employee, it’s time to think about how you’re going to track whether your remote program is successful.

After Two Weeks: Check-in with Your Employee’s Manager

The person who works the closest with your first remote employee will surely have a lot to say about how the working style is affecting his or her work. Two weeks is just the right amount of time to get a feel for what has changed since the employee has begun working outside of the office—not too short that the employee is still adjusting, and not too long where an issue has occurred, and it’s too late to fix it. Set aside some 1:1 time with your remote employee’s manager to determine how the trial period is going so far.

After One Month: Check-in with Your Employee

Though the flexibility of remote work allows employees to spread their wings and become more productive and creative, it also takes a bit of getting used to. Based on his or her manager’s responses, you’ve probably eliminated some of the simple roadblocks in your remote employee’s way. Perhaps you’ve implemented a new project management tool across the company to keep everyone on the same page or have established core hours so that the company is on a similar schedule across the board. Now that a month has passed, it’s time to sit down with (or video call) your remote employee and get their thoughts on the program.

After Three Months: Evaluate Performance

Goal check-ins tend to happen on a quarterly basis, so this is the perfect time to look at the initial results of your remote work program. Your employee has been working outside of the office for three months, so they should have settled into their new working style by now. During this check-in, it will be important to gain an understanding of how your remote employee and his or her manager feel about the goals that they set in their initial discussions, and if they feel like they were too ambitious or not ambitious enough.

After Six Months: Identify Any Major Successes and Challenges

Finally, six months after your remote employee began working away from the office, it is time to reflect on the important successes and challenges that have occurred during these early stages of your remote work program.

Once you have gone through this extensive reflection process, you’ll be able to determine whether you need to make changes to your remote work program before you launch it company-wide, or even expand it. Whatever the case may be, let these qualities and questions guide your implementation process. Don’t lose sight of the purpose that you have for creating a remote work program and select employees to participate with this mission in mind.

Remote work has become the new normal. Get our 10 tips to make working from home actually work.

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