In March of last year, the outbreak of the pandemic forced businesses across the country to abruptly shutter their offices and have their employees work from home. Initially, most thought the shutdown would last for a few months at most, but more than a year later, millions of people are still working remotely.
The shift to remote work has transformed the way the American workforce operates, and even now that vaccines are widely available, many companies are choosing to keep a large number of their workers at home. At the same time, other businesses are taking a hybrid approach, where employees work both from home and in the office.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
In fact, more than 80% of company leaders said they plan to allow their employees to continue working remotely at least some of the time after the full reopening from the pandemic, according to a survey by research firm Gartner. The survey found that 47% of respondents said they intend to allow employees to work remotely on a full-time basis, while 43% would grant flex days, and 42% would provide flex hours.
Remote work offers a number of benefits for both you and your team. Without a physical office, startup costs and overhead are significantly lowered. You also aren’t limited to hiring locally, so you have a much better chance at attracting top talent. And increased employee autonomy and flexible schedules typically increases job satisfaction, which can boost productivity and morale, while lowering turnover.
But running a remote workforce also comes with its own unique challenges. This is especially true when it comes to managing your team and keeping them engaged and motivated. Management strategies that are effective in an office often don’t translate to a remote environment, where you must strike a balance between an individual worker’s independence and your team’s overall cohesion.
With this in mind, adopt these three strategies to better engage and manage your remote workforce.
1. Communication Is Essential
With everyone working in different locations, facilitating communication among your team should be a top priority. Fortunately, today’s technology makes staying in touch with your remote workforce easier than ever. While email and phone calls are still vital, video chat and messaging platforms take remote communication to the next level.
Face-to-face interaction—whether one-on-one or in a group—provides the most connectivity, so make videoconferencing a central aspect of your company’s communication process. Over the past year, Zoom has proven to be one of the most popular video-chat platforms, as it not only allows you to interact face to face, but it also facilitates collaboration by allowing chat participants to share their individual computer screens with the entire team. Our team Zoom’s once a month, but each group will have their own best frequency to communicate in big and small groups.
Slack is another online communication tool that can serve as the main hub for your team’s daily communications, and it too has proven quite popular. Slack’s versatile instant-messaging system brings your team and conversations together in one place and allows you to share images, documents, and other files directly in chat. We recently started using Slack and I (at least) am loving it!
Additionally, Slack lets you organize team discussions into different channels, allowing you to tailor communications by topic or department. And you can even build a sense of community with Slack by creating non-work channels, where your team can get to know one another and socialize.
2. Foster Authentic Connections
Communication is key, but your team will only establish genuine connections if communication is regular and meaningful. While remote workers don’t need constant hand-holding, it’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected if there isn’t consistent communication among your team. Younger workers just starting out are particularly vulnerable to feelings of isolation.
Holding weekly team meetings via video chat not only allows you to regularly discuss company goals and progress, but it also allows remote workers to gather together, which fosters a sense of unity, belonging, and comradery. Encourage your team to actively participate in meetings by seeking their feedback, so they feel like they’re part of the company’s overall direction and decision making.
In addition to weekly meetings with the entire team, consider scheduling regular “check-ins” on a weekly or even daily basis, where workers interact one-on-one with their team leads via video chat or instant message. These check-ins allow individuals to discuss how their work is progressing, as well as share how they’re doing in their personal lives, which encourages authentic personal relationships.
Of course, the best way to create meaningful connections is for your team to meet in person. Consider holding on-site gatherings whenever possible, as well as encouraging team members who live near one another to meet up and spend time together.
3. Develop Clear Processes
Since you can’t physically monitor your team’s ability to do their jobs, it’s vital that they’re clear on exactly what you need them to accomplish. To this end, establish clear, easy-to-follow work processes, so each person knows what’s expected of them, as well as how, where, and when their work should be delivered.
For general processes common to all employees, consider creating video tutorials laying out standard operating procedures (SOP). Share these videos with your team, so they have an easy-to-follow model for how common tasks should be completed.
For more specific functions, consider online project-management tools like Asana and Trello that allow you to assign tasks in a highly structured way. By organizing project tasks in a checklist format, team members can complete each task in a step-by-step manner, ensuring maximum consistency and efficiency.
Moreover, these programs offer a detailed overview of each project, so you can clearly monitor workflow and track where individual team members are in the overall process, eliminating the need to micromanage.
Establish a Solid Foundation
Running a successful remote operation isn’t just about managing your team. You’re also responsible for the nuts and bolts of business management: the legal, insurance, financial, and tax (LIFT) components. Yet, with your company’s workforce spread out over several different states—maybe even different countries—these essential tasks are made even more complex.
For instance, just staying in compliance with the constantly changing employment and tax laws across multiple states can be a massive endeavor. And making just one mistake can cost you big time.
As your Family Business Lawyer™, we specialize in helping you navigate these diverse legal landscapes, and we’ll assist you in establishing a solid LIFT foundation for your company as well. Contact us today to schedule a LIFT Strategy Session.
This article is a service of Liz Smith, Family Business Lawyer™. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 907-312-5436, or find a time for us to call you.