Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ensuring the Productivity and Success of Remote Employees

Work from Home

Image Credit: Flickr / Noodles and Beef

Utilizing remote employees are a great way for businesses to reduce operating costs. However, it is often more difficult to track and manage remote workers, especially since you don’t see them every day. So, how do you ensure your remote employees are as productive as your in-house employees?

Know their Work Ethics

Many businesses require an employee work in-house for a defined period of time before working remotely. There are many benefits to instituting this type of policy. First, it allows the employee to have a good working understanding of the company’s culture, inner workings and procedures, which can be invaluable once they transition to a remote employee.  Second, and most important, it allows you to assess their work ethic and production levels. Knowing how they work and their production quality in-house will help gauge results later when they are working remotely.

Set Clear Guidelines and Requirements

As with any employee, the success of remote employees depends on how clearly expectations are defined. Make sure your remote employees have a clear understanding of their work assignments and the team division of duties. Outlining responsibilities helps keep work from being duplicated by multiple employees.

Additionally, it is equally important for the remote employee to understand when they should respond to action items and how. Outline the time frame for critical items vs. non-critical items, including giving the remote employee the tools for determining what is and is not critical.

Create a System for Communication

While managing remote employees isn’t much different than managing regular employees, there will be a need for increased communication. Requiring more communication will not only help you with accountability, but will help keep your employees feeling like a team and will help with office cohesiveness.

Luckily, there are many ways to foster increased communication. One good solution is with an IM program, like Google Chat or Yahoo Chat, which allows your office to easily and quickly interact with one another. Video conferencing can also be a good solution. Finally, don’t forget about the phone. Sometimes the easiest way to communicate with a remote employee is to call them and have a conversation. Just remember to call during the arranged work schedule to ensure you aren’t disrupting the employee.

Most importantly, remember to create a backup communication system, like a secondary email address through a free service, so that you can still communicate with your remote employees in the event that your network (or theirs) is down.

Track and Report

The best way to ensure that your remote employees are as productive as your regular employees is through regular tracking and reporting. Require that your remote employees check in with their supervisor and their team so that everyone knows where items stand.

One way to ensure accountability and reporting is to require the remote employee come into the office once a week for weekly team meetings. As long as this is feasible (i.e. the remote employee isn’t out of state), requiring remote employees to come into the office occasionally can help maintain team cohesion. It also gives your employees a chance to work together in new ways, since they do not always interact face-to-face.

Another way to help with accountability and teambuilding is to require that your remote employees email a daily team report to their team, outlining what projects they worked on for the day, and where things stand. Daily reports can also help ensure reduce resentment between regular and remote employees because it shows how everyone is pulling their weight with projects.

With a little planning, allowing employees to work remotely can be a win-win for both the company and the employee. Defining job requirements, and outlining expectations, as well as giving employees tools to aid with the increased communication needs will go a long way to ensuring the remote work arrangement is successful.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who enjoys bringing people closer to their technology.  Email: Website:

Using PivotTables in Excel

Do you use Excel to report and analyze large chunks of data? Don’t waste hours figuring out the proper formulas to use to report your data – use PivotTables instead, and extract the data you need in minutes.

PivotTables are an easy way to summarize data, and see how that data relates and corresponds to other gathered data. What’s more, they allow you to easily manage your spreadsheet data simply by dragging and dropping.

Introduced in Excel 2000, PivotTables aren’t new; they’re just not well known. While it was a handy feature even in 2000, the updates that Microsoft has made to PivotTables in Excel 2007 and 2010 make them a more robust business tool today than they were at their inception.

To use PivotTables, setup your data on one worksheet. (A worksheet is one tab within Excel. Example Sheet1, Sheet2….) Headers are very important! Make sure that each column has a header classifying the data. Do not leave a blank space between the header and the first piece of data.


PivotTable Setup

PivotTable Data Setup

Disclaimer: These instructions are based off of Excel 2010. If you have a different version, you may have to access PivotTables differently.

Once your data is compiled, click on Insert, then click on PivotTable. This will bring up the Create PivotTable screen.

Select the table or range you want to use. To do this, click on the button with the red arrow, to the right of the Table/Range field. It will minimize this area to one long field. Click on Sheet1 (or whichever sheet contains your original data). Then, select the fields you would like to use in your PivotTable. Once selected, click the button with the red down arrow located to the right of your selection.

Next, choose where you want the PivotTable to be placed. Select Existing Worksheet, then select the fields where you would like the PivotTable to be located. You do this the same way you selected your table/range, by clicking the red arrow next to location, selecting Sheet2 (or whichever worksheet you would like to use), highlighting the fields where you would like the PivotTable to appear, and then clicking the red arrow again to return to the Create PivotTable screen.

Your Create PivotTable screen should look something like this. Once it’s setup, click on Okay to create the PivotTable.

Pivottable Setup

PivotTable Setup

You should have a screen that says “PivotTable, to build a report, choose fields from the PivotTable Field List.” To the right, the headers for the selected fields will appear. Choose which fields you want on your report. Then, drag and drop the fields to change the order of what the PivotTable reports.

The PivotTable Field List will allow you to arrange your fields in the order you would like to see them. To change your layout, simply change the field order by dragging and dropping.

PivotTable Options

PivotTable Options

While PivotTables look easy, they do have a slight learning curve. But don’t let this

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deter you. Once you learn how to access your data using the power of PivotTables, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who is interested in making technology easier to understand. Email: Website: