Strategies to Manage a Remote Workforce for Business Success
The cultural shift to working from home because of global events has permanently changed the way businesses are managed. Remote work is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more widespread since 2020. According to Owl Labs’ 2021 State of Remote Work Report, 69% of workers shifted to remote work in the pandemic, and 57% of people who previously worked remotely and have since returned to their in-person offices say they prefer working remotely full-time.
Employees and managers alike have taken notice of the benefits of working remotely. The most common reason employees cited for preferring remote work was the ability to better support and be more present with their families. Remote workers also saw improvements in their health, saved money by not commuting, and felt that their employers cared for their wellbeing. Managers of remote workers noticed higher productivity and lower overhead business costs like rent and furniture.
Companies that are new to remote work or are making the shift from fully in-person to fully remote may struggle to best adapt their workplace culture to online. The same techniques used to hold employees accountable in the office do not translate over the Internet. A lack of proper management can potentially result in remote workers feeling isolated with little direction or connection to your company. But with the appropriate management strategies, remote workers feel a part of a team and feel motivated to succeed. These are seven strategies to manage a remote workforce for your business’s success:
Communication is the number one struggle to overcome as a manager of a remote team. While communication is vital for any team to succeed, with remote teams there is no such thing as over-communicating. Leave no room for ambiguity on important details like deadlines and roadblocks and keep this information consistent across channels. Consider the needs of your employees to determine the best methods of communication whether that be one-on-one video calls or a workplace messaging app like Slack. Keep team communication frequent with scheduled time blocks for video conferences and feedback sessions. Informal communication is also vital for the teams to bond remotely.
Define Clear Expectations
One aspect of maintaining clear communication is to define clear guidelines for yourself as a manager and the rest of your team. Every person on your remote team needs to have well-defined roles and responsibilities of how each person contributes to the business at large. Keep these responsibilities well documented and in a place accessible to the entire team. As a manager, it is your responsibility to provide expectations on how work should flow and what should be implemented on a given project This can be accomplished by creating productive work structures flexible enough to adapt to the personal needs of your employees.
Provide Quality Technology
Modern technology is the reason any company gets to conduct business remotely in the first place. But even modern technology can fail remote teams and create roadblocks to work to get done. That’s why managers of remote companies need to utilize the best technology and software available for connecting with their employees. Determine what apps work best to host video conferences, instant messaging, and sharing documents between workers. Before a company goes remote, managers must set up the login information to these apps for workers to get started. If it is in your power to do so, provide company computers and Wi-Fi to your employees with unreliable technology.
Opportunities for Collaboration
One way to keep your remote team connected is to introduce opportunities for collaboration between members. The ability to collaborate is one of the most important soft skills for remote workers to have. Managers should clearly delegate responsibilities to members of a small group for work assignments to be finished in a timely manner. Collaboration is admittedly more difficult over the Internet, which is why online tools exist to have different people combine forces on the same assignments. But collaboration doesn’t have to be synchronous. Asynchronous teamwork is often more convenient for employees with other responsibilities or who live in different time zones.
Contribute to a Feedback Culture
Between teammates and leadership, feedback is essential for business success. A feedback culture refers to a company culture that prioritizes and celebrates feedback between all levels of employees. When each employee gives and receives feedback from others, it makes them feel listened to and acknowledged for their contributions. Managers and leaders need to consistently ask for feedback from their remote employees to adequately adapt to their needs. All feedback should be constructive, respectful, and timely corresponding to deadlines. Listening and implementing each other’s feedback will eventually lead to better performance and the need for fewer corrections.
With remote workers, having a healthy, established work-life balance is crucial for business success in the long run. It’s especially difficult to make the distinction between work and personal life when everyone is sitting in their homes all day. Burnout is a common problem for remote employees with a poor work-life performance. Managers must encourage employees to take breaks away from the Internet and limit work hours to prevent burnout. Focusing on deliverables rather than how much time is spent working allows employees to better separate time working and relaxing time at home.
Build Trust Between Employees
Finally, the last strategy for managing a remote team is to promote and build trust between employees. Trust is established through many of the previous strategies including having clear communication and feedback. But trust is also improved by strengthening company culture through informal or possibly in-person meetings. One part of building trust between you and your team is to not micromanage. Leaders must step back to let their employees be productive according to the guidelines they established. Businesses cannot succeed without trust between coworkers and effective teamwork led by responsible managers.