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The labor force today is clamoring about the benefits of a remote workforce. Whether it's low overhead or access to a global talent pool, there are many advantages. But do these perks outweigh the proven benefits of having a localized team working out of the same building? And if you do decide to build a remote workforce for your company, how do you manage your personnel?
A quick search of any job board will show that the number of remote positions is growing but still amount to only a small fraction of open positions. This observation could be interpreted as a sign that on-location work environments are still the way to go. However, once you understand the inner workings telecommuting, you'll see why so many people consider it the future of business. A 2018 study showed that 70% of professionals worldwide spend at least one day each week working remotely.
If you've always worked in a traditional office environment, the thought of rarely seeing your team in person can seem berserk. There are indeed reasons to want teams all in the same place, especially when it's time to brainstorm or host a company picnic.
Technology has made it possible to communicate with people hundreds of miles away effectively. Anyone with a smartphone can participate in a video chat. Enterprise-ready instant messaging systems are now secure, reliable, and robust in features. Other than shaking someone's hand or share a sandwich, there are few everyday business activities that can't be done through the internet.
That being said, managing a remote workforce requires a unique set of skills. Since you do not have a constant view of what your employees are doing, different practices are necessary to maintain relationships and accountability. Here are a few best practices when managing a digitally connected team.
Invest in Quality Communications Tools
With a remote workforce, you may not need to build a massive building to house the operations of your company. You do, however, need to provide quality digital communications tools. This toolbox might include a professional instant messaging app, such as Slack or Skype for Business. Some companies require employees to maintain their own PC, while others furnish laptops to help support security and efficiency.
Some employees like to work from home, but others thrive in a more professional setting. Consider offering co-working memberships to employees. By providing membership to a co-working space, you give your team access to amenities like quiet conference rooms, networking events, and business-level internet connections.
Make Expectations Crystal Clear
With a distributed team, setting the right expectations for every single task is crucial. It's not enough to pick up the phone and offer verbal instructions. A clear list of deliverables and deadlines must be saved online available to everyone involved. TandemHR advises "If the employee does not meet these expectations, remember to record the details and discuss them with the employee. If expectations are not met regularly, perhaps a remote work situation is not ideal for them."
Focus on Results-Based Projects
When you have a team that clocks in and out of the office every day, it can be tempting to associate good work with long hours. If you see employees at their desks from morning till night, there's a good chance they are working. With a team that telecommutes, you can't draw these same conclusions. Therefore it is crucial to structure projects around specific expected results, rather than dictate the number of hours that should be spent.
Instead of asking your team to spend eight hours working on website updates, tell them that you expect the entire site to be updated as soon as possible. If the project is finished quickly, then employees can move on to other priorities. Emily Morgan wrote on HuffPost, "Remote workers will not base their value in clocking in and out, but in the results they are able to produce. They have the ability to develop their own scenarios to tackle the demands of their job because of this value shift."
Be Intentional About Building Relationships
Some people can build digital rapport more easily than others. It's crucial to build elements into your management structure that help everyone feel like a part of the team. Advise supervisors to bring up fun, non-work related topics at least once per week to help people feel personally connected. Think of it as the virtual "water cooler" conversation.
Dr. Kim Turnage, co-author of the book Managing to Make a Difference, says building relationships and a positive culture must on the very first day: “Ensure there is both a team onboarding activity and time that the new employee spends with each team member one-on-one,” she says. “We have found that a structured get-to-know-you exercise can help facilitate and jump-start relationships.”
For entrepreneurs in Oklahoma looking for a regular dose of inspiration, 1 Million Cups might just be the perfect pick-me-up. A free, nationwide program developed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Oklahoma City branch of the program meets monthly at StarSpace46. 1 Million Cups OKC gives local entrepreneurs an opportunity to meet and present their startups to a thriving peer network of founders. As their website suggests, “The coffee is highly encouraged.”
This name for the program is based on the idea that entrepreneurs search for solutions and connect with their local communities over a million cups of coffee every day. Founded in 2012, members in 182 communities around the United States gather on a regular basis to learn and engage with other business owners and professionals. The program is managed by volunteers who tirelessly work to further the impact of 1 Million Cups throughout all 50 states.
An important division of the Kauffman Foundation, the overarching mission is to work with entrepreneurs and empower each one with tools and creative resources that break down barriers. The founder believed that being able to bring a big idea to life is one of our fundamental rights as humans. 1 Million Cups was created to fulfill that mission.
Each monthly meeting offers a presentation from a different expert in their field. Past offerings include topics like using cutting-edge technology for the common good and entrepreneurship around the globe. Attendees often hear from local Oklahoma business owners, who tell the stories of how their companies have grown, and the real-life lessons they’ve learned.
Mike Slack, one of the organizers of 1 Million Cups OKC, spoke about the history of the local chapter, which began before StarSpace46 originally opened. The meetups were previously held at the offices of Dunlap Codding, Oklahoma's largest intellectual property law firm. SS46 partners presented their mission for the coworking space there, in an effort to find its first members.
Slack also discussed his personal mission, and how those align with the current goals of SS46 and of 1 Million Cups. He said, “I want to help create the Oklahoma City that I want to raise my kids in. Not just the Oklahoma City that I want to live in, but that I want my kids to be raised in. And that is an Oklahoma City that has not only an economy of the present and of the past but of the future.”