8 Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce

As telecommuting becomes the norm and office buildings sit empty, many employers are struggling with the day to day management of their newly remote workforces. The shift happened so fast that it took many businesses by surprise, further exacerbating these management difficulties. Now that the dust has settled, it is time to establish some best practices. Here are some timely tips for managing a remote workforce without sacrificing security, connectivity, teamwork or your sanity.

1. Set clear expectations. Being sent home can seem like being set free, but remote work is still work. Set clear expectations and hold remote workers accountable for their productivity levels.

2. Resist the urge to play favorites. Long-term telecommuters often complain that they are invisible, and that the lack of personal interaction harms their chances of raises and promotions. If you want to manage your remote workforce effectively, make sure everyone understands they are part of the same team.

3. Schedule face to face time with the team. It is easy to feel isolated when working from home, so make sure your newly remote workers know they are still part of the team. Daily or weekly meetings can keep everyone on the same page and allow workers to share ideas, troubleshoot problems and build a better team.

4. Create documentation for your new remote practices. Working from home is new to many people, and a lack of guidelines has created a large number of problems. Take the time to document remote work processes, from how to log on to the network to where to save files to what time the weekly meetings are.

5. Use productivity tracking software. Some studies have shown that a largely remote workforce is actually more productive, while others have shown that productivity suffers when employees work from home. If you want to know where you stand, and how well your productivity improvement strategy is working, you need to track your progress. Productivity tracking software is easy to use, widely available and an absolute must for any business with a remote workforce.

6. Maintain an active feedback loop. A positive feedback loop can make all the difference for remote workers, so reach out to team members and ask you how they are doing and what kind of support they need. This outreach is an essential part of remote workforce management, especially for businesses new to the concept.

7. Find an easy to use file sharing solution. Emailing documents back and forth is not a long-term solution to your file sharing problem. If you want your remote work experiment to succeed, you need a professional solution for sharing and updating files.

8. Build in time for idle chatter. The water cooler is a vital part of office life, and many telecommuters find that they miss it. Making time for idle chatter can boost productivity and satisfaction for telecommuters and office workers alike.

For many businesses, fielding a remote workforce can create enormous cost savings, with reduced expenditures on everything from office space and utilities to recruiting and retention. But the day to day management of those remote workers can be a challenge, and it is important to follow some common sense best practices, starting with the eight timely tips listed above.