5 Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce

As we navigate through COVID-19, it seems there is one thing all business owners can agree on – the way we are operating is different than it has ever been. Chances are most business owners have never experienced managing a fully remote workforce. However, considering current circumstances, many business owners have made the decision to move their workforce to the remote environment. If remote work has not been a part of your normal business operations, going to 100% remote overnight can be overwhelming.

In addition to constant updates with current regulations and legislation, most businesses are being faced with managing a team that’s spread across the state. While it may feel intimidating at first, proper planning and strategy can help you and your team successfully navigate through working from home.

If you have found yourself in this position, these five tips are for you.

Create and follow a communication plan

Whether you are in or out of the office, effective communication is the key to success. When your team is each working from their home, communication becomes even more critical. A simple question that could have been answered by popping into a co-worker’s office, is now an email or instant message that could take hours to receive a response.

Creating a communication plan that outlines expectations and guidelines allows employees to gain a clear understanding of the new protocol. Keep in mind, most of your employees, if not all, are new to working from home as well.

Tip: Take the time to check-in with your team individually. It is easier to feel isolated from the group when everyone is working from their living rooms. Ask your employees how they are doing. See if they need anything to enhance their work from home experience. Or, just call to say ‘hi!’ Rapport building shouldn’t stop just because you aren’t physically in the office.

Schedule regularly occurring team meetings.

Maintaining team meetings is beneficial for keeping your team on the same page. If you normally hold a team meeting on Monday, continue this meeting on a virtual platform like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Weekly team meetings give your employees a chance to give updates, discuss lingering questions, and plan the week ahead. Creating consistency with your team even when working remotely may help your employees manage their time throughout the day.

If you feel as though you are scheduling too many meetings, consider this: If you don’t have an agenda for the meeting, then it’s probably not worth having. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or your team and take away valuable time with too many meetings. Some questions can be answered by a quick instant message or an email. If an email stream goes back and forth more than a few times, it may be best to pick up the phone. Proper scheduling makes the most of your time and helps your team stay on track.

Tip: Consider hosting video conferences. While a traditional conference call has the ability to include multiple voices, video brings the person behind the voice. Incorporating video encourages your employees to call in from a quiet room that is free of distractions (rather than calling in from the car). And hey, who isn’t missing face-to-face interaction right now?!

Focus on outcomes over activity.

When your team is in the office, it is easy to monitor productivity. However, when everyone is working from home, it’s nearly impossible to see who is slacking off and who is staying on track. On the bright side, you can monitor outcomes. You may need to shift gears and change how you gauge success. Focus on the goals you have for your team and how they can be used to keep productivity up. Deadlines are another tool that can be used to monitor your team.

Tip: Create a calendar that highlights upcoming deadlines. Discuss the deadlines in your weekly meetings and share it with your team. If you sense that an employee is struggling, reach out to them privately and help them to create a plan that helps them stay on track and keep up with their workload. This is a time of change and uncertainty for all of us.

Provide technology and resources to your team.

Working from your living room is completely different from the office your team is used to. Ensure that your employees have the necessary technology and resources available to get their job done well. Check-in with your employees and make sure they have everything they need to work comfortably and productively from their homes.

Tip: Create a checklist of essential equipment each of your employees will need to be successful as they work remotely. Include contact information for your IT department and any additional support contacts who can help your team get set-up at home. Consider using applications like Microsoft Teams to help keep your team connected via instant messaging. These applications may help with faster response times as quick messages are not getting lost in an overflowing inbox.

Focus on flexibility.

Now more than ever, your team needs flexibility and understanding. There is a lot going on right now. In addition to the uncertainty that the coronavirus brings, a majority of the population is simultaneously adjusting to working from home for the first time. Although this is not an excuse for employees to stop getting their work done, it may be reason to reconsider how workdays are structured for the time being. The traditional 8-hour workday may not be feasible under current circumstances.

During this time of change and uncertainty, working as a team is more critical than ever. With proper guidelines for management and employees, a fully remote workforce can be just as productive, if not more than in the office. Remember to communicate, set clear expectations, and to trust your team.

Iowans helping Iowans.

We have created a COVID-19 resources tab on our website to help support you and your business. This page includes updated information regarding the FFCRA, PPP Loans, Unemployment, CARES Act, and more. These resources are available to help keep you informed and your business in compliance.

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Focus OneSource is Iowa’s premier PEO. Our dedicated team has been helping growing businesses in the area succeed for over a decade. As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), we help business owners gain access to a rich suite of benefits at an attainable price point and monitor compliance with human resource practices.

Business owners who have Focus OneSource working in their “back office” are statistically 50 percent less likely to fail and have 10 to 14 percent lower employee turnover. Are you ready to increase your business productivity and profitability?

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