Managing a remote workforce is not easy. This is true whether you are working in an office, managing a team for an ebusiness, or running an ecommerce company of your own. While overseeing any team has its difficulties, managing a remote workforce is even tougher. Why? Because you don’t have face-to-face interactions for one; and you may be working in entirely different time zones too.
Below we will discuss a few of the difficulties common to these kinds of jobs, as well as tips for managing a remote workforce.
Implement Regular Check-Ins
One of the biggest issues facing remote employers and remote employees is visibility. Many managers of remote teams simply throw a task over the proverbial fence and wait for freelancers, contractors or full-time remote workers to complete and return it.
While this is an easy way to manage tasks, it keeps the remote worker out of the loop and ultimately disengaged from your company.
Hold regular check-ins to help your out-of-office team feel more integrated. These can come in a variety of forms. Common examples include weekly video calls to see how projects are progressing, monthly one-on-ones to ensure remote employees are happy with their jobs, or quarterly conference calls to update everyone on the health and direction of the company as a whole.
The key is to keep communications open to make everyone feel a part of the greater team.
Focus on Open Communication
Speaking of which, a variety of technologies is available to encourage collaboration. Slack is one of the most popular examples. This chat-based platform provides an alternative to internal email communications. Rather than sending emails back and forth – which inevitably leads to multiple email threads, missed CCs, and buried attachments – Slack provides quick communications everyone in a specific group can see.
Of course, Slack isn’t the only solution. Many employers prefer virtual face-to-face interactions with remote employees. After all, it’s nice to match a name and voice to a face. Video conferencing technologies like BlueJeans, Zoom, or Skype for Business are prime examples.
Encourage remote workers to use these platforms to stay abreast of internal conversations and projects.
Hire the Right People the First Time
Since remote workers don’t exist in the same office space as everyone else, it can be easy to lose track of day-to-day operations. Are they really doing their work? Are they spending more time on Facebook than on important projects? Does it even matter if they aren’t online during normal business hours so long as they get their assignments in on time?
To avoid stressing over these questions, simply hire the right people the first time. In other words, hire detail-oriented self-starters you won’t have to keep an eye on. While it’s sometimes hard to tell who will be a reliable employee and who will be a slacker, it’s reasonable to assume longtime freelancers, former managers and habitual remote workers will preform as expected.
It also helps to select workers that understand your industry and how their role fits into the greater scheme: Does the candidate understand the difference between ecommerce and ebusiness? Does he or she understand how their design duties work to solidify your ecommerce brand? These are the questions you need to be asking.
Set Reasonable Expectations for Your Remote Staff
So, you’ve hired the right folks to work for your business and you’ve opened up the lines of communication. Now it’s time to set reasonable expectations for your remote staff. While it’s tempting to slough off extra work to your remote team, in so doing you will burn them out and decrease their satisfaction.
Communicate regularly with your remote team to make sure they have enough work to keep busy, but not so much that they are overwhelmed. By doing so, you can ensure quality work is returned and you will retain the realationship for a longer period of time.
Get Out Payments and Invoices on Time
Last but not least, you need to make sure you get payments and invoices out on time. This is more of an issue for contract or freelance workers. But if you fail to pay what you owe, you won’t keep these folks around for long.
In the end, managing a remote workforce depends heavily on open communication and collaboration. If you do your best to ensure your remote workforce is happy and included, they will reward you with solid work for years to come.