Virtual work opportunities are around nearly every corporate and small business corner in today’s professional environment. While some companies offer employees the ability to work from home a few times per month, others create truly remote positions that never require a salaried or contract worker to set foot inside an office. Working remotely benefits the organization by expanding available talent pools without location restrictions; employees benefit as well by gaining more control over their work environment and being able to achieve the sought after unicorn that is a work-life balance.
The shift to remote work has steadily taken place over the last 10 years thanks to adaptive technology and advanced tools that provide simple solutions to wrangling a team that is dispersed across various regions of the country or the world. However, managing a remote workforce takes some getting used to for even the most talented leaders.
Here are four quick tips on managing remote employees and freelancers regardless of your business’ size, industry or location.
Develop and Implement a Plan
Remote workers are not all that different than employees or contractors who physically show up to the 9-5 grind each day in terms of needed direction. Even highly qualified, undoubtedly talented employees require some hint of a work plan to be efficient in performing their tasks. Even though there is an air of autonomy with remote teams, virtual workers still need to know what is expected of them and in what time frame.
Organize a daily or weekly plan of attack for the remote team, and be prepared to provide direction and clear expectations to individual team members as it relates to the overarching plan. Work tasks and assignments should be made available to the entire team in some way: e-mail, a project management system like Basecamp, or a task scheduler like Asana.
Have Faith in Your Team
Remote teams require direction just as in-house employees do, but that does not mean taking a hovering stance over your virtual workforce. The pull to micromanage is often stronger when working with remote employees, due to the fact that monitoring is not as easily done as it is with onsite workers.
As a manager of a remote team, it is imperative that you have a great deal of faith in the virtual employees you hired and avoid the draw to micromanage their workflow or process. If the work is continuously getting accomplished on time and with a high level of quality, allow your remote workers to maintain their autonomy outside the regularly scheduled team meetings or one-on-one check-ins.
Utilize the Best Tools
Although technology has made the ability to employ a virtual workforce a reality for countless businesses, using inefficient or unnecessary tools to manage a remote team may have a negative impact on workflow and employee satisfaction. A number of technology-based tools exist to help in managing a remote workforce, including project management systems, messaging applications, and accounting, invoicing, and financial management software programs. Businesses can make use of corporate performance management solutions provided by Holland Parker or other similar CPM consulting services. For those unaware of CPM, it is a finance tool that monitors and manages an organization’s performance according to key performance indicators Also, both freelance employees and salaried workers can utilize this smart but simple application to generate a paystub within seconds, making it a breeze to keep track of hours worked and earnings over time. Having tools like this available for your remote team is invaluable in maintaining productivity and contentment among workers.
Keep Communication a Priority
As with in-house workers, consistently keeping the lines of communication open is pertinent to management success. Employees who work offsite need to feel connected not only to the work but to the rest of the team as well as the leaders of that team. While e-mail and chat applications such as Slack are great for quick updates and new ideas, remote teams often require some face-time in the realm of communication. Setting aside time for video conferences, either one-on-one with team members or as a group, is a smart way to keep remote workers engaged with their work, their team, and their manager. Perhaps some businesses could really benefit from some of the telecommunication solutions from Fusion Connect, for example. They can help team members to stay in contact whilst they’re all working in different locations, helping the business to experience continuity.
Corralling a remote team does not need to be a challenge to managers, but it does require a slightly different approach than managing in-house employees. First, focus on building and maintaining a workflow plan that includes expectations and deadlines for each team member, and have faith they can get the work done on their own; then, find and implement the best tools available for your team’s needs. Finally, maintain a strong flow of information by communicating often and offering face-time when possible. Each of these steps assure your remote team runs smoothly over time.