The working world drastically changed when organizations were forced to flee their offices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the blink of an eye, business owners and managers worldwide were asking themselves one question. How do we manage our remote workforce effectively?
In fact, the stay-at-home orders caused a bit of a challenge for business owners, managers, and employees alike. Their environments were now reversed. With that reversal came the need for innovative ways to manage these remote workforces.
Now, as time has passed, it’s clear remote work is here to stay. Organizations are beginning to realize that a certain percentage of employees happen to favor working from home rather than in-office. In some cases, allowing employees to work from home can increase productivity and comradery. If you’re one of these companies, here are some tips to help you better manage your remote workforce.
Continue Employee Education
An important first step in how to manage your remote workforce is to educate them on the transition. You need to provide them with helpful resources for their new remote work life. Be transparent with your employees. Give them as much information to navigate this transition as possible. Create an open line of communication to help them learn how to become an active member of your remote workforce.
Educating your employees on everything from health policies to financial literacy will help them get accustomed to their new environment. In particular, for older employees, a priority on medical health support may be of greater interest. In this type of educational program, be sure to include resources on such things as:
- Health insurance to help cover recurring medical expenses.
- Flex spending which involves a tax-advantaged financial account, resulting in payroll tax saving for US companies.
- Employee assistance programs to assist employees with both personal and work-related problems that may impact their overall well-being.
On the other hand, for younger employees, placing an emphasis on financial literacy is important. These employees are not only new to a remote workforce, but to the workforce altogether. As such, they will benefit greatly from employers providing them with resources on how to plan and manage their finances.
Prioritize Employee Migration
When managing a remote workforce, it’s important to make sure your employees are as comfortable as possible making the transition. In some circumstances, some workers might opt to work remotely permanently. Others, on the other hand, will be completely new to the remote work-life combination. Some of your employees may even realize they need to physically move to create a home office environment that is productive.
For instance, if they wish to move cities or into a new home or apartment that better accommodates remote work, they might need a specific set of resources to better understand this process. This could include:
- Understanding what credit score they need to purchase a home and how they can build their own score up to reach this milestone.
- How to research which city or location is the best fit for them and their new remote lifestyle.
- Guide your employees during the moving process and help them find the right real estate agent who can cater to their needs.
Once your employees have the right location for their home offices, they then need to create the right environment within them. While some employees thrive when working from home, others really struggle to stay on track. As such, help them properly organize their home offices. I have been lucky enough to work from home for more than 18 years. Based on that experience, here are some practical tips on how employees can work from home effectively, and keep a positive outlook in the process.
Managing a Remote Workforce Requires Establishing Guidelines and Setting Boundaries
An important part on how to manage your remote workforce is to clearly establish rules for employees to follow while transitioning from the office to their home. Having said that, there will always be questions, so you have to be available and accessible to your employees to answer them.
It’s important to be transparent with employee priorities, milestones, and performance goals. Outlining each team member’s availability and ensuring you can reach them when needed can help increase productivity.
Also, it’s important that you, as the manager lead by example. Stay up to date on policies, staff changes, and company successes while working at home. And most importantly, don’t ask your employees to do anything that you are note willing to do yourself.
Be Flexible and Accommodate
Working with remote teams is a bit more challenging than having your entire staff being in the same location at the same time. It becomes harder to relay messages that can reach everyone at a reasonable time. It’s important to be flexible and create a schedule that allows employees to best merge their work life and home life. This can help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout.
Employees may choose to work differently. One common example of this is working hours. Some people might prefer to start earlier and end earlier, while others will continue using the traditional 9–5 hours they maintained in-office.
It’s also important to note that certain aspects of the job that worked while in the office will work a lot differently while at home. For example, many organizations may opt to digitize their processes, such as using an online timecard system. This allows each employee to log their time along with what they worked on for that time period while online. This allows for a more streamlined and regulated process for workforces that are not all in the same place.
The Key ot Managing a Remote Workforce – Encourage Communication
One of the most important aspects of working remotely is to communicate as much as possible. Because your employees can no longer communicate face to face, some would say it’s even more important now.
There are projects, meetings, events, and deadlines every employee must meet. Without consistent communication, your work that was once organized can become rather chaotic. And you are going to have to make a conscious effort to keep your remote employees engaged throughout the whole process.
Discover which form of communication is best for your workforce. Consider using a mix of communication methods to foster the best sense of team communication, even while remote. This could include:
- Video conferencing – A way for team members to meet virtually to discuss projects and tasks.
- Communication tools – These applications create easy access and real time communication for coworkers to exchange questions, insight, and project details.
- Email – The more traditional way to communicate is still effective when needing to get a message across.
Be sure to get feedback on these communication methods. Using feedback from your employees can be one way to come up with new solutions for your entire remote workforce to work more effectively. One simple way to do this is to simply ask your workers how they wish to be managed. Obviously, every company has their own standards but take the time to also consider how your employees feel regarding ways to communicate, collaborate, and carry out everyday tasks.
Collaborative team work is what makes working in an office that much more special. Having the ability to turn to a colleague or manager with a question is a luxury. When working remotely, however, it’s harder for managers to manage activities and projects done by employees on a daily basis.
That’s why the ability to work together and collaborate on various work projects and files with colleagues is a must if you want to manage remote employees effectively. In fact, I think a cloud storage app is one of the must-have apps for anyone who travels or works remotely.
For example, a shared document or spreadsheet can record data exploring employee activities. This way, every worker can consistently track their progress as it pertains to goals within their specific projects. This process not only helps managers in charge of certain tasks. It also helps remote employees clearly plan for when tasks are due.
Avoid the need to micromanage though. Even though it feels like your employees are more out of your reach than ever before, use the tools to accurately log their productivity but let them do the work. Trust that employees are meeting deadlines and achieving performance standards unless there is evidence otherwise.
Try implementing one-on-ones with team members. Take the time to understand how they’re working, how they’re doing outside of work, and what they can do to improve. More importanly, as a manager, make a conscious effort to give your employees a positive outlook by making attitude coaching a part of your daily routine.
How to Manage Your Remote Sales Team – Part of the How to Sell Virtually Video Series
If part of your remote workforce is in sales, there are some sales-specific tools and technology that will help you better manage your remote sales team.
In the video below, as part of the Virtual Selling Webinar Training Series, Susan and Robert of B2B Sales Connections talk about about How to Manage Your Remote Sales Team – How to use virtual tools and technology to better manage and motivate their remote sales teams.
By the end of this episode, you will have learned
- The important keys to managing your remote sales teams effectively
- Why you should mandate the use of sales reports and what you should be tracking
- How to hold effective one on one meetings with your salespeople
- Simple things every sales manager can do to keep the whole team positive and motivated while working remotely
How to Manage a Remote Workforce – Conclusion
Managing a remote workforce was something that was new to many organizations, thrust on them without warning. Now, as businesses transition and look past the pandemic, it’s clear that working remotely is here to stay.
Companies must adjust their managemnt style. Those that do so with confidence, optimism and proper planning will be the ones that will see the greatest results. Simply put, adjusting to the new way, and using the right tools, your company will be more productive and profitable as a result.
Remember, as Socrates once said, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
“… what I can tell anyone, is simply this – If you want to learn and understand sales, talk to Susan.”