4 tips for building and managing a remote workforce

459929141Is remote work a sound strategy for your business? And if so, what are the best practices to make this strategy yield the greatest possible results?

Here are four key tips, tricks and practices that should help you answer both of these questions.

1. Is remote work right for your business?
This is the first, most important consideration that you need to address. After all, remote work is not ideal for every business. Famously, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer decided, upon taking the reins of the company, to discontinue the organization’s remote work policy, as she felt that an office-based work environment would yield greater results. However, many other tech companies of all sizes have obviously gone the other route and embraced remote work.

So, you must ask yourself: Would my business be negatively affected if employees did not need to always or ever work in the office? Perhaps your company is staffed largely by team members who have worked closely together for an extended period. If so, they may have difficulty switching to a remote work policy, hurting both productivity and job satisfaction. Or perhaps your business thrives on brainstorming and person-to-person meetings. While you can certainly have a high degree of interaction and collaboration remotely, there are limits, which can be a drawback.

That being said, there are many, many tremendous advantages that your business can reap by utilizing remote work solutions. Most notably, remote work is great for increasing flexibility, and consequently productivity. Employees who have the ability to perform work outside the office and on their own terms tend to put in more hours than more traditional staff do. They may work on weekends, at night, while traveling and so on.

And because they are setting their own schedules and able to work from home, these employees tend to have a higher level of job satisfaction. This increases the quality of their production, and helps to improve employee retention rates. Without the need to train new staff members so frequently, your workforce will become more experienced, faster.

Additionally, if you embrace remote work, you can greatly expand your pool of potential job candidates. After all, a full-time remote worker does not need to be based in the same geographic area as your office – he or she can telecommute from anywhere in the country, or even the world. This means you can hire only the best, most qualified candidates, rather than choose from the much smaller pool of local candidates.

Before deciding to embrace remote work options or not, you need to weigh all of these pros and cons as they relate to your unique business operations and goals. If you decide that you would benefit from remote work, then it’s time to focus on developing the appropriate strategy.

2. The right employees
A big part of developing an effective remote work strategy is ensuring that you have the right employees in place. While remote work is extremely popular among workers, not everyone is a fan. Furthermore, some personnel may like the idea of remote work, but simply don’t have the disposition or motivation to thrive in this type of arrangement.

There are a number of key traits to look for when determining if a candidate would make an effective remote worker. Among the most important of these according to experts, is independence. One way to help determine if a candidate has the potential to be a good remote employee is to ook at candidates’ resume for evidence that they can do well when working by themselves or without a great deal of supervision. For example, a worker who has made several lateral moves within a company may be a good fit for remote work, as he or she presumably likes taking on new challenges.

468455595Remote work is only a good choice if you can trust your employees to remain productive and accountable even when they’re outside the office. A history of working under these circumstances should put your mind at ease, as it suggests that the employee will do well in this setup.

Another key consideration in this area is your employees’ age. As industry expert Sara Sutton noted for Recruiting Trends, millennials are far more enthusiastic about remote work than older workers. She noted that many millennials see the ability to work remotely as the ideal setup, rather than simply a nice perk. In fact, about one-third of employees in this age range rank the ability to work remotely as more important than their salaries when choosing between positions. If your business aims to attract and retain a young workforce, then offering remote work options may be borderline essential to your efforts.

3. The right tools
In order for remote work to be a viable and effective option for your business, you need to provide your employees with the necessary tools. While some organizations may be able to make do by relying on widely available solutions, like email and personal phones, many others will need more specialized offerings.

For example, Agustin emphasized the value of video conferencing solutions.

“When you’re working from a remote office, there’s no substitute for seeing someone else’s face once in a while, so using video conferences for regular meetings can make a world of difference when it comes to team bonding,” she wrote.

Additionally, real-time document sharing applications can prove critical for maximizing employees’ abilities to collaborate. To make sure that the information sent and received remains protected at all times, you also need to invest in high-quality security tools. Upgrading from a consumer-grade email system to a business-grade offering can increase both the dependability and security of your employees’ collaborative efforts.

4. The right approach
One final, critical aspect to a successful remote work solution is adopting the right policies. While remote work largely centers on trusting your employees outside the office, you need to approach the management of these workers in an effective way.

contacts2For example, you should establish regular check-ins with your remote workers, either via the phone, video conference or in-person, depending on your specific circumstances.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you adhere to this recurring schedule. It’s very easy for a manager to treat remote workers as less integral to the team, simply because they aren’t as visible a presence. If you treat your remote workers this way, though, their job satisfaction and loyalty will drop, along with their productivity.

By developing a managerial approach that takes into account the unique needs of remote workers, you’ll be able to reap all of the rewards of this arrangement without any major tradeoffs. This will help your business’s bottom line in both the long and short term, and will make your employees glad to work for your company.

Do you allow remote work at your firm? What strategies do you use to make it work for you?

Chelsea Segal

Chelsea Segal

Chelsea Segal is the CEO of Targetwise. TARGETWISE empowers agencies, brands + marketers with results-oriented solutions that grow, nurture + maintain a social ecosphere.

Neutralizing all digital channels, we accelerate performance by applying data driven optimizationin real-time across a superior blend of mobile, video,display and email inventory. Converting the right people at the right time, we drive brand solutions, while securing optimal impact, engagement + results.
Chelsea Segal