Managing a Remote Workforce 101
You may have thought about the pros and cons of from home, but there is a lot for someone managing a remote workforce to think about when a company expands their telework policy. You may not be certain that this would be the best choice for your company, but the truth of the matter is having a remote workforce is a green solution. Think about it, no more long commutes for your team members just so everyone can sit in the same office. We’ve pulled together some guidelines that will help make managing a remote team work for your company.
First as a sustainability company, you know that employees who switch to telecommuting impacts carbon emissions—as soon as a person stop driving into work they reduce their carbon footprint in a big way. Multiply that by a larger population of the workforce and that impact increases dramatically. Sara Sutton Fell highlighted how a few large corporations who were encouraging workers to telecommute had a major impact in her piece, How Telecommuting Reduced Carbon Footprints at Dell, Aetna and Xerox, for Entrepreneur in 2015. It’s been a few years, so think about how much more we can do remotely!
Fell pointed out that Global Workplace Analytics had determined 50% of the American workforce had telecommute-compatible jobs. If those individuals all worked from home half the time it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road. It would also reduce annual oil consumption by 640 million barrels. You know that these changes would be an incredible boon for the environment.
Speaking of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that the U.S. uses approximately 19 million barrels of oil every day. If people worked from home part-time, 1.75 million of those barrels—almost 10 percent—would be eliminated. Plus, a CoSo Cloud study suggested that 77 percent of the remote employees it studied were more productive than office-bound employees. Clearly companies implementing wider work-from-home policies are seeing positive impacts in three big ways:
• the company benefits thanks to cost savings, higher productivity and employee retention
• the environment benefits due to the reduction of carbon footprints
• and the individual team members benefit because they have a better work-life balance (and can feel good about positively impacting the environment).
Who can say no to such a win-win-win situation?
Okay so all of that sounds great, but you might not be sure how to best manage your team from a distance or how to keep them engaged with their peers and their projects. William Morrow offered some insight into the challenges of managing an off-site team in his recent article Don’t Even Try Managing a Remote Team Without These Tools.
What are the main challenges to a remote work force? Different time zones or communication and collaboration issues among team members can be a hindrance to productivity. It can also be more challenging to build up strong relationships within your team if they are never in the same place at the same time. To help you combat these challenges, Morrow highlights some of the top tools that will keep your team on the same page, starting as soon as they onboard. He suggests utilizing ClickMeeting for this process. It is a platform built for webinars that is commonly used as a virtual conference room. It also enable your organization to deliver presentations that allow remote workers to engage in real time as well as share documents, illustrate information with a whiteboard feature, and run Q&A sessions for your remote attendees, keeping everyone on the same page.
Morrow also suggest finding a platform that that will allow your new employees to gain skills from hands on training while they work (particularly if they are working in a tech capactity). Setting up a virtual lab environment, like MicroTek, allows team members to experiment and make mistakes without negative consequences to your company.
But on top of the hiring and initial workflow, you also need to think about HR and technology issues. Whether they are in the office or working remotely, all members of your team will be more productive if their computers and other devices are running smoothly and they feel invested in the company as individuals. Check out the BambooHR suite, which provides a valuable employee-appraisal platform, and TeamViewer to help you deal with remote tech issues.
Then, and this is perhaps the trickiest part, you need to find a good solution to support communication and collaboration among the team. There are a number of tools that can help your team continue to be cohesive, but Slack and Google Drive are definitely among the top performers in this area.
Now remember all of these helpful platforms require a password and since you should be creating unique and complex passwords for everything, consider an option like LastPass or 1Password to help you keep track of these. A site like these allows you to store every password associated with your online accounts which means you only have to remember one master password — the one that logs you in to the password-manager application. Bonus: administrators can select which remote employees can log in to which online accounts, and set expiration dates for access.
You’ve got all your processes in place — great! — but you still need to help keep your employees engaged with their jobs and each others. While your team is likely to be more productive at home where they can avoid all the office distractions, Ryan Gellis notes that you have to make sure your workforce has a sense of cohesion. To create this positive team culture from a distance you need to make sure to use the right technology (as Morrow mentioned), plan for in-person activities ranging from a coffee hour to happy hour to fancy dinner out. It is clear that meeting in person, when possible, boosts a team’s connection even if that meeting is purely a social outing.
Another key to keeping your staff members engaged is inspiring communication among everyone — yourself included. If you are available, your staff is likely to be more tuned in. Also set core hours — even if it is just 4 or 5 hours midday —because having a set time where everyone is available via email, phone or chat will help keep the projects progressing in a timely fashion.
So if you are thinking about expanding your remote workforce — you can do it! It’s great for the environment, your employees, and likely, your company’s bottom line.