Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce

Utilizing a remote workforce provides across-the-board benefits. Companies slash overhead costs, workers enjoy a better work-life balance, and communities benefit from reduced traffic congestion, less accidents, and decreased greenhouse gases. These are just a few of the advantages of a remote workforce. Yet, managing a virtual workforce isn’t without its challenges. How do you keep your remote workers engaged, informed, and motivated? How do you help reduce your employees’ feeling of isolation to keep their productivity levels high?

From recruiting to training, here are six tips for managing a remote workforce.

1) Recruit workers with remote experience. Job skills aside, it’s helpful to hire employees that have already had a successful experience telecommuting. In this way, the worker already knows if he’s cut out for working remotely. Be careful if you’re considering hiring an employee if it’s her first virtual gig outside a conventional working arrangement. According to Remote Worker Daily, characteristics of successful virtual workers include hard working, independence, follow through, dependability, and trustworthiness.

2) Equip remote workers will relevant tools. Remote workers can get frustrated if they don’t have all the information and tools needed to accurately and quickly do their jobs — often more so than traditional office workers. Be cognizant of this, and make sure that there are no obstacles getting in the way of getting their job done. With today’s cloud-based applications and SaaS technology, it’s easier to provide your long-distance workers with all the tools they need for high productivity, so take advantage of technology tools, like WebEx, Skype, Google Docs, Dropbox, and others.

3) Keep them in-the-loop.
As mentioned above, some remote workers develop feelings of isolation — like they aren’t really a significant part of the company or team. Be sure to include remote employees in meetings, conference calls, and on email correspondence. One of the most important tips for managing a remote workforce includes providing a steady stream of communication.

4) Be mindful of time differences.
In many cases, having a remote workforce means employees are in different time zones. Having a meeting at 4 pm may be perfectly fine for your employees in California, but for those in New York it’s 7pm, which means it’s infringing upon dinner and family time.

5) Put it in writing.
Having a meeting over the phone to discuss a project or task is good in that it gives the employee the opportunity to ask questions. However, don’t entirely replace written instructions with conversation. Follow up the conversation with a summary or detailed instruction in writing, to provide the remote employee with a guide to refer to.

6) Break up large assignments in smaller chunks.
Don’t hand out a three month assignment without giving interim deadlines. Breaking up the work into shorter time frames gives you the knowledge that the project is on track.

Managing a mobile workforce isn’t as challenging today as it was in the past. With technological advancements, communication, and organization, small business managers can effectively manage virtual teams to succeed.