In Pursuit of Profit
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The pandemic forced most companies to go remote for what was originally anticipated to be a 2-4 week stint. Over two years later, many companies still have remote employees, at least to some degree.
Hybrid working has become the new normal and small business owners continue to struggle with the added challenges of how to manage remote workers. While office-based businesses have largely adapted to managing a remote workforce, other types of small businesses continue to wrestle with the increased demands of location-divided staff.
Communication challenges, technology barriers, and access to key information remain difficult among small and mid-sized companies trying to learn how to manage remote teams virtually. If this describes your business, our guide to managing remote workers will give you the tools needed to be successful in this new era:
Choose Management Personnel Wisely
Knowing how you will manage remote employees requires first deciding who will manage them.
Managing remote work takes a certain set of interpersonal skills, which means some people will be better equipped to manage when workers are dispersed across locations. Mid-level managers and executive leadership must be empathetic and understanding to varying employee needs and personal situations.
The best people to manage remote employees are those with a true desire to connect and communicate regardless of the medium. They answer emails and IMs quickly, make themselves available for quick virtual chats to eliminate the email tag game, and proactively inquire about how employees are managing their workloads. Leaders that are “head down, just get it done” kind of personalities may struggle when managing employees that are not physically alongside them.
Technical savvy is also a plus, because managers will also need to guide employees through using the interconnected software components required to do their jobs, which may have a steep learning curve for some employees. Remember, employees will mirror their leaders’ attitudes, so managers that are resistant to automation, new technologies, and shifting business parameters are not the best fit for a remote team. Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to managing a remote workforce.
Use Cloud-Based Software
Remote access software should be used to encourage collaboration among employees, execute daily functions with accuracy and timeliness, and unify employees around the company’s mission.
“Anywhere access” to a company’s main systems is crucial for all types of businesses, not just office-based businesses. There is software for everything these days from bookkeeping and expense management to payroll and project management. Anything that your company uses should be accessible to any employee that needs access regardless of where they are. Of course, there may be additional security considerations when employees are accessing systems with sensitive items like personal information and financial records, but utilizing cloud-based software gives employees that kind of access when they are out of the office that is needed to keep the business running with remote employees.
Compared to terminal-based software programs cloud-based software is also typically less expensive, more scalable, better for collaborating and sharing across multiple users, more secure, and better equipped with help resources. These benefits of going digital add up to a huge advantage for companies with remote employees.
With so many real-time communication capabilities available to workers these days (texting, instant messaging, video chatting, and so on) communication should be easy to accomplish. However, without the framework in place to guide communications, employees can feel isolated when working remotely and their work can suffer without regular feedback.
Top management experts explain that managers should set “rules of engagement” for any remote work arrangement that outlines how and when communication should occur. Facilitating communication should be a top priority to keep employees engaged and doing their best work to drive the company forward. This sentiment is especially true when it comes to one-on-one communication between managers and their employees. Regular one-on-one meetings should be utilized to get questions answered, discuss professional development, and resolve pain points. Employees that feel included and valued are more productive and more effective in their roles.
When employees are not in the office they miss out on the sort of casual regular feedback about their performance. Whether it is discussing areas where improvement can be achieved or getting praise for doing a good job, performance feedback becomes much more formal when employees are working remotely because it is often only shared in scheduled performance review sessions. But whether employees are in the office or remote communication around performance objectives should be frequent and actionable.
In addition to individual feedback managers should share information pertaining to overall business goals as well. All levels of management, especially senior leadership, should prioritize transparency with remote employees to aid in replacing the in-office work atmosphere.
Facilitate Ongoing Learning
Providing the right tools is essential for setting remote employees up for success. But aside from giving employees the productivity and project management tools that they need, there must also be an emphasis on ongoing learning. Whether this is learning new and innovative ways to maximize the benefit of these tools or learning skills that are adjacent to their primary roles, learning opportunities will keep employees happy in their roles and help the company to grow.
One of the best ways that you can support remote employees is by setting up a mentorship program. Not everyone will excel with formal learning opportunities like access to coursework, but everyone can benefit from being paired with someone who can help them to learn and grow while making them feel heard and supported. These kinds of arrangements have the added benefit of creating a sort of emotional “buddy system” to build in accountability for employees’ overall wellbeing because a mentor will be able to identify when an employee is feeling isolated or burnt out in their role. For small companies where there may not be enough personnel to set up a mentorship program for everyone, connecting employees with professional organizations locally or virtually can provide an avenue to help employees grow.
Outsource Skilled Activities
Business owners often assume that letting employees work remotely is less expensive than having them in the office because less space is needed. However, the reduction in office space cost is offset by increased software and hardware costs to give employees the tools they need to work from home as well as increased travel costs if employees must travel to the main office periodically. In the end, a remote workforce may be cheaper, the same cost, or more expensive depending on the nature of the work and where employees are located.
As a result, many businesses that have seen their workforce go remote are now more seriously evaluating the option of outsourcing. The thought here is that if you are managing remote employees, you might as well lean on virtual professionals who are highly experienced in their fields. This is why there has been an upward trend in companies outsourcing their accounting, IT, HR, web development, and cyber security functions over the last several years. Outsourcing some of your more technical and skilled roles is a savvy way to get the business benefit of utilizing experts in their industries without the added hassle of needing to manage them as employees.
When you are ready to utilize an outsourced accounting service, please reach out to us. We can provide the full-time, part-time, or project-based accounting help you need remotely to keep your business running smoothly regardless of where employees are located.