Fourteen years ago we started our firm based on a distributed workforce. At the time, there was a huge stigma around organizations that allowed employees to telecommute or work primarily from home with the implication being that the company was not a "real company" or it was simply smoke and mirrors. Oh, how times have changed. Attitudes have shifted, and other factors – mobile technology, better communication tools, and a society focused on flexibility and quality work-life balance – have further empowered this work model.
Simply confining one's candidate pool to a geographic location is drastically self-limiting and short sighted. Why not seek out the most talented and qualified individuals wherever they may be?
With that in mind, here are five essentials that are absolutely vital in making this model a success for a business.
- Instant messaging. Collaboration is key, and with a solid instant messaging program, you can connect and communicate quickly and effectively with co-workers. There are many options to choose from with varying features.
- Virtual phone system. With a distributed team, it's difficult to maintain a traditional phone system, but with low-cost technology solutions, you can create a virtual phone tree and connect your entire workforce. This powerful tool can allow your company to quickly scale as you grow.
- Virtual meetings. As within any company, meetings are a necessity. Today, you can leverage technology platforms to deliver presentations, product demos and more without flying across the country. In-person meetings with clients and business partners are still essential to building relationships; however, leveraging technology in the right situation allows for quicker decision-making and more effective use of everyone's time.
- Results-oriented management. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. One of the most important things when managing a distributed workforce is to disengage from the need to monitor employees' every move. With a mutual understanding of trust, you can focus your sights on performance. This results-oriented philosophy works when both the leadership and the employees have full buy-in on the company mission.
- Self-motivated employees. The final and most important requirement in a distributed model is the right employees. Employees must be highly focused, not easily distracted and have the ability to work in an environment with little separation from work/home life. Not everyone excels in this setting, which is why it's imperative that the employee has the right attitude and work ethic.
If you are a micromanager and enjoy controlling every aspect of your employees' day, then the idea of a distributed workforce will make you apprehensive. If you are willing to step back, put the proper tools in place and embrace the future, you can build a team with higher morale, better performance, and increased loyalty.