5 tips to ensure employee retention of remote workers

by Greg Digneo
Employee Retention of Remote Workers

It’s no secret that there are several advantages to hiring remote workers. These advantages include access to a global talent pool, increased productivity, and decreased employee stress. But one of the biggest motivating factors for companies to hire remotely is simply how much more cost effective it is.

Let’s break it down.

According to a recent PGI study, the average business would save up to $11,000 per employee per year if employees worked remotely just part-time. Businesses can save on real estate costs, office supplies, furniture, unscheduled absences, janitorial services, transit subsidies, utilities, and more. Remember, this study only reports the savings if businesses allowed workers to work remotely just half the time. Imagine how much more you can save if you hire full-time contract workers.

The best part is the savings don’t end with overhead costs.

Harvard Business Review and an independent study reported more enlightening findings about cost savings of remote workers: remote workers are more productive, more willing to work overtime, and best of all—more likely to stay with your company longer.

As a quick reminder of how valuable it is to keep an employee on board, let’s highlight how much it costs to replace an employee. Employee turnover can cost at the least 16% of an annual salary for a low-level employee and up to 213% of an annual salary for an executive, studies show. Not cheap.

Simply put: a solid, committed, and happy remote worker is worth their weight in gold to your company, and it’ makes sense to keep them motivated to stay with you.

Here are some tips on ways to build a solid working relationship with your favorite remote workers to ensure employee retention.

1. Give them a warm welcome

Creating loyal remote employees starts with onboarding. The more welcome they feel as part of the team initially, the more likely they are to stay with your company. Here are some ways you can make sure your onboarding process is smooth sailing.

  • Give them a face-to-face welcome. If your employees live near you, invite them into the office, show them around, introduce them to staff, and let them know how they can get in touch with you. In the event you are hiring a remote worker from a far location, then set up a Skype or Google Hangout call with them and follow the same process. Your new employee doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same room with you to get a warm welcome. They just need to see your face, hear your voice, and understand that you consider them an integral part of the company.
  • Introduce them to key players. It’s rare that a remote worker will work on projects 100% independently. In fact, most remote workers will communicate with other key players at your company. To make sure your remote workers are properly oriented, take the time to introduce them to everyone they will be working with on projects. This includes setting them up with the proper tools for email, chat, video conferencing, and more.
  • Give them the rundown on company culture. Virtual employees hardly, if ever, come into the corporate office, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on company culture. Take the company, Zapier, for example. Nearly all of their employees work remotely, but you can get a taste of their cool company culture by just browsing their website. Not only is it clear that they value free time, corporate retreats, and the success of each employee, but they have a guide that outlines all their processes for remote workers. It’s clear, easy to reference, and informs everyone of their policies, procedures, and culture.
  • Create a new hire checklist. Being organized is the best thing you can do for yourself, and for your new employee. It’s difficult to transition to a new role in a new company, especially if you’re working remotely, but the more organized you are, the easier it is for everyone. Your checklist should include all the documents they need to read, any forms they need to sign, team members they need to meet, any software they need to install, and information they need to send to you.
  • Have a 30-60-90 day plan in place. Before sending them off to work on their first project, set them up with a 30-60-90 day plan. This should include the projects they will be working on, expectations they need to meet, and checkpoints to make sure everyone is still on the same page.
  • Give them a project right away. The last, and arguably most important, piece of the onboarding puzzle is to give your employees a project to start working on as soon as you hire them. This will help them integrate into your company more quickly than anything else. Remember to check in with them often to answer any questions and offer help when they need guidance.

2. Stay on top of payroll

Remote workers don’t often care how they get paid; they just care that they get paid consistently and on time. If you want your remote workers to stick around, here are some payroll tips that will ensure they do.

  • Set clear expectations. Before you hire a remote worker, set clear expectations of how much they will be paid, if they are paid hourly, salary, or on a contract/project basis, and how you will pay them. If the expectations are clear from the get-go, you won’t have to worry about any problems with payroll.
  • Sign a contract. As part of their hiring process, consider writing up and signing a contract that outlines all of the particulars of their job and payment. Then, there won’t be any questions when payday rolls around.
  • Invest in a quick payroll software. Chances are you will pay your remote workers differently depending on their experience, qualifications, and the job they are doing. Rather than trying to keep track of it all yourself, invest in a quick payroll software for remote employees that will do it for you. Then, they can enter the terms of their project, get quick approval, and the software will automatically send out payments on the correct date.

There is little more that motivates a remote employee to stay with your company than the promise of quality and consistent pay.

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3. Make communication simple

If it’s not easy to communicate with your remote employees, you can rest assured your relationship will end almost as soon as it starts. Here are some tools that will make communication a breeze.

  • Skype Skype has an awesome free plan that allows you to either video chat or hop on a free phone call. Skype also offers free online meetings that provides:
    • PowerPoint collaboration and screen sharing
    • Personalized URLs for joining the meeting
    • Ability to join from any device
    • Video calls for up to 10 people
    • It’s also a good idea to have another communication software on hand, in the event you experience any software glitches. Other good options include Join.me and Google Hangouts.
  • Slack – Sometimes a remote worker will have a question about a project, but it doesn’t warrant a Skype call. This is where Slack comes in handy. Slack is a messaging software for teams. You can chat one-on-one, with the whole team, and break off into one-on-one meetings from a team chat. It’s the perfect way to get quick answers to important questions.
  • Asana – A software like Asana is a must for remote workers. Asana is a free task management software that makes communication about deadlines easy. In Asana, you can add a task along with a description, and then assign due dates for task item completion. Asana will send out email notifications reminding the remote worker of upcoming due dates. Additionally, you can attach documents, pictures, and write comments right in Asana, and everyone involved in the task will see the inputted information.
  • Dropbox – If you rely on email to send large files, you can guarantee that something will get lost in cyberspace. This can be devastating to the results of your projects. In order to avoid any problems with remote workers or bosses in the office not getting documents on time, use a file sharing software like Dropbox. Dropbox touts their ability to get all your files to anywhere and anyone on any device.
  • Podio – Podio is a great all-in-one software that helps with collaboration and communication. With Podio, you can easily get all of your teams working in sync. Podio works as a workflow management software, communication tool, and centralized work hub with easy admin tools and the ability to customize it to your liking.

There are several other excellent tools on the market that will help you with communication including Google Apps, Intellinote, Yammer, Zoho, and SharePoint. Each of these are valuable and worth looking into before deciding on the best communication tools for your business.

4. Don’t micromanage your employees

One of the biggest appeals of working remotely is autonomy. There is something intrinsically valuable about getting a project, finishing it at your own speed, and then using the rest of your time to either complete more projects or work on improving your skills.

When you don’t micromanage your employees, they are free to thrive, and with that comes the following enticing benefits that lead to employee retention.

  • Happiness – When employees are allowed the freedom and independence that comes with working remotely, they are much happier.
  • Efficiency – The fewer distractions employees have, whether it be from you or another employee, the more efficient they are.
  • Less Stress – Studies about remote workers show that 82% of telecommuters report less stress. Not only is this good for the employee, but this leads to a boost in morale, which is also good for the employer.
  • Engagement – This may seem strange, but Harvard Business Review, reports that remote employees feel more engaged with co-workers than employees that are in the office.
  • Balance – Remote workers report they have a better work-life balance. This makes it easier for them to spend time with family all while fulfilling obligations at work.
  • When it comes right down to it, allowing employees to work remotely provides the autonomy and flexibility they desire. Studies show that this flexibility is increasing in importance for employee retention.

5. Automate time tracking activity

While it’s important to give your remote employees autonomy, it’s also important to track their activity. After all, with working remotely comes a mutual understanding that there is also accountability.

Many managers make the mistake of relying on self-reported data to track accountability. This is difficult on the employee for several reasons. It’s possible for them to forget to track hours, to report inaccurate hours, and it’s time consuming. Additionally, the employer has no idea if the self-reported hours on their timesheets are actually accurate.

To build a longer-lasting relationship, and have any real hope at employee retention, the best thing to do is to take this strain out of the working relationship entirely.

You can do this by investing in employee monitoring software that will automatically track how much time your remote employees are spending on certain tasks. Automatic time tracking software will show you exactly where remote employees are spending time.

Not only does this help improve the employer-employee relationship by making time tracking easier, but it also increases productivity.

How? I’m glad you asked.

With an automated time and activity tracker, you can see things like how much time you are spending on email, in meetings, on specific projects, visiting different websites, and more. Accessing this type of data will help you identify time sucks, track areas where you may need more time, and set more realistic productivity expectations as needed.


There is no doubt in the value of finding a quality remote employee. Remote employees can save your company money, provide talent that you can’t always access locally, and help you increase productivity levels across the board.

Remote employees are the way of the future, and when you find a good one, it’s worth it to take measures to make sure they stick around at your company as long as possible.

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