Here are five tips to keep in mind for managing a remote workforce, and what kind of leader you'll need to be to keep your faraway employees faithful and productive.
Managing a remote workforce is no easy feat, but it's something that many more business owners are being forced to contend with today than ever before. The nature of the modern economy, inundated as it is with digital technology, means that remote workforces aren't just alluring but often necessary. Nevertheless, many entrepreneurs, small business owners and corporate professionals have driven themselves mad trying to manage a workforce that's simply out of their reach – literally. Keep these five tips in mind if you have a remote workforce.
1. Equip them with the tools to succeed.
A remote workforce can only achieve success if the workers have the right tools at their disposal. While many business owners view remote workforces as a way to cut back on the costs of doing business and avoid investing in their workers, the reality of the situation is that you have to spend money to make money. This means equipping your remote workforce with the digital tech they need to stay in constant contact with you, which often means going beyond mere desktops or laptops.
Knowing what office equipment to give remote workers begins with the understanding that they can't snap their fingers and make miracles happen. If you want to talk to them, they'll need phones. If you need to host a video conference, they'll need computers or tablets capable of joining in. Sometimes, however, you can just skip the process of selecting the tech and give your remote workforce a "technology stipend," or a fixed sum of cash that they can spend as they please on the tech that they feel they need the most.
2. Keep happiness in the equation.
Many business owners want to experiment with a remote workforce because they think it simplifies the business equation, but there are certain things you should always keep in mind regardless of how your workforce is composed. Remote workers often report lower levels of job satisfaction than their more traditional peers, for instance, which is often a result of lackluster communication schemes and an inability to convey their ideas to a distant boss. Bridging the happiness gap with the help of technology is something every business owner should come to understand and appreciate before assembling a remote workforce.
3. You have to find the right workers.
More so than even a traditional office setup, remote workforces necessitate that the people calling the shots work tirelessly to find the right candidates for the job. If you don't have a stellar team of remote workers using a low-cost VPN who are capable self-starters, you'll effectively be breathing over their shoulders and making corrections constantly, which defeats the point of a remote workforce in the first place.
Countless simple mistakes continue to beset the hiring process for remote workforces, though, and many entrepreneurs don't really know what special skills a remote worker should come with. Review some common mistakes managers make when onboarding remote workers to avoid suffering from such mistakes yourself.
4. Bridge the social gap.
Another conundrum of a remote workforce is the social gap that often exists between the boss and their remote workers. When your employees are stationed far away from you or working at home, for instance, it can be immensely challenging for you to communicate or bond in a normal, human way. Staring at one another through a screen, the remote worker and boss begin to view one another as nothing more than an extension of their work equipment. Bridging the social gap and connecting with your workers is an essential part of having a remote workforce that's actually productive and committed to your brand's long-term success.
Forging an emotional connection with your remote workers that resonates even at long distance is one of the most important elements of a remote workforce manager's job. You don't have to get too sappy, but if you don't show your workers some love and attention, you shouldn't be surprised when they drift away from you.
5. Don't treat remote workers like they're expendable.
Finally, you need to understand that your workers aren't expendable just because they're remote. If you fool yourself into thinking you can mistreat your faraway workers, you'll quickly stumble into inefficiency and perhaps even a lawsuit. Paying your remote workforce an adequate wage, equipping them with benefits to keep them healthy and seeing to their personal needs is just as essential as doing all of these things for a traditional workforce. After coming to know and respect them, you may discover that your remote workforce is an even more vital element of your team than you previously imagined.
Managing a remote workforce successfully necessitates a leader who isn't themselves remote and disengaged from the rest of the team. Despite the distance between you and your employees, you need to forge a close bond that ties you together through thick and thin. Don't skimp out when it comes to buying them the right tools for the job, and certainly don't make the mistake of thinking they're just cogs in a machine. As long as you treat your remote workforce as real members of your team, you'll soon discover that managing your distant employees has become easier than ever before.