How to Manage Employees and Freelancers by Email and Social Media

by Allen Taylor

When you have remote employees and freelancers, it can be hard to keep tabs on what they're doing. This advice on managing them via email and social media will help you keep communication open and productivity high.

keeping up with remote employees
Image source: Graphicstock.com

Gone are the days when businesses required its workers to sit in a cubicle on the fourth floor and gaze out the office window a few minutes before starting the day. The Internet has spawned a new cottage industry – remote workforce labor, otherwise known as freelancing.

But one doesn't need to be a freelancer to work remotely. Many companies are hiring employees and setting them up in a home office.

Remote work can take on any number of qualities for the benefit of company and worker alike. For example:

  • Hiring managers now conduct interviews via Skype or videoconferencing
  • Meetings are often held by Web conference or Google+ Hangouts
  • Project details are hammered out in chat rooms or through e-mail
  • Documents are shared through Google Docs or other cloud-based delivery systems
  • Even accounting processes may be monitored online and
  • Finally, companies often pay their employees and freelancers through online pay systems like PayPal

Why Virtual Relationships Are Beneficial

As long as the job gets done, does it matter who does it or how they get it done? Many companies are realizing that the pool of their potential candidates can be broadened by looking beyond geographical boundaries. This can often save money by reducing office space, overhead, pay and benefits, and expenditures related to office furniture and supplies since homebound employees may provide their own.

But there are other benefits, as well. Studies show that workers who work remotely from home are happier, more productive, and less likely to quit their jobs.

SEE ALSO: Tips for Outsourcing to Freelancers

While the study above concerned itself with call center employees, there may be reasons to believe other types of workers (employees or freelancers) could perform better at home. Writers and proofreaders, for instance, may be less distracted than if they worked in a busy office. Nevertheless, if you allow your employees to telecommute, or you work with freelancers a lot, then you'll have to find ways to manage their projects from a distance, and that means communicating often through digital interfaces.

E-mail and social media seem to be the preferred and most familiar of the digital communication media.

How to Manage Projects Remotely Through E-mail

E-mail is fairly ubiquitous. It's been around long enough that everyone understands it—even the most fearful technophobe. And it's easy to use. The advantages are legion.

For starters, e-mail allows you and your remote workers a way to focus on your work load without distractions. You can schedule your e-mail time apart from your work time and still manage to get everything accomplished that needs to be accomplished. That's true of managers and employees, as well as freelancers who may work with you on a per-project basis.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get the best from your employees and freelancers if you find yourself managing them through e-mail:

  • Let remote workers know the times throughout the day that you check your e-mail. That way, they know to send important messages prior to those times or synchronize them to arrive when action is required.
  • Keep your e-mail messages short. If you have a lot of business to discuss, don't put it all in one e-mail. Instead, send a list of things you need to discuss and highlight the ones that can be handled by e-mail. Request a short phone call for the rest.
  • Make contact daily. It doesn't need to be much. One way to do this is to simply request—either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day—an update on the project.
  • Alternatively, if you think it will help, send your employee or freelancer a list of resources that can help them with what they are working on.
  • Don't be the manager who annoyingly sends multiple e-mails in one day with no real substance. E-mail if you have to. Otherwise, let your remote workers alone to do their work.
  • If you haven't heard from your remote worker in a reasonable period of time—say, two or three days—send a quick "checking in" e-mail and ask for an update.

The important thing is to keep it low-key. Handle important business by phone and keep the e-mail space reserved for project-oriented details.

SEE ALSO: Flexible Work Advantages

How to Manage Projects Remotely Through Social Media

Try your best to use e-mail when communicating with remote workers. If you need to utilize social media for business, do it in such a way that you don't annoy or embarrass your workers. Also, keep in mind the restrictions of the media. Twitter, even when direct messaging, will only allow you 140 characters.

The best way to manage remote workers through social media—especially if you are managing more than one—is to set up a group for project communication. You can still private message individual workers if you need to. Facebook and Google+ both allow you to start private groups for discussing projects related to your business. Unless the business you are discussing would be interesting to your customers, or the public, try to keep business-related messages off the public airways. Some exceptions to this rule might be:

  • If you are seeking public input on the project
  • You are doing so for entertainment or branding purposes
  • The matter affects a certain demographic and you want to draw that demographic into the conversation

Freelancers and employees might help you promote your projects if you use social media to send them kudos and give them credit where due. Keep this golden rule in mind: Criticize in private, praise in public.

© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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