How to manage remote workers

With the employment landscape changing, more and more Australian companies are embracing new ways of approaching the traditional 9-5.

It may be through flexible start and finishing times, through allowing team members to work from home at certain times of the week, or even moving to a complete remote team.

Remote workers can bring in additional skills to the business, can allow for quick upscaling when required to complete projects, and help the workers themselves to achieve a better work/life balance with additional flexibility or reduction of commuting time.

So, if you team is becoming more and more remote, how do you go about managing them? Here are our top tips:

1. Regular contact 

Ensure that you are checking in regularly with remote team members. One of the greatest fears of employers allowing their team to work remotely is that the work won’t be completed and, from the employee perspective, they can feel isolated and as if they are ‘missing out.’ Regular contact solves both of these challenges and keeps tasks on track and moving.

2. Clear briefing and structured processes 

If looking at the case of upscaling through contractors for specific projects, these remote workers may have never worked in your organisation before. They will not have the inside knowledge that comes from being an integral part of the team, they will not understand the dynamics or how you, as the business owner like things to run.

Clear briefing and structured processes enable the remote worker or contractor to understand exactly what is expected of them, and to deliver the work in a way that aligns with ‘business as usual.’

3. Utilise communication and cloud-based technology 

Cloud-based technology and other systems that allow for collaboration and communication are nothing to be fearful of. All they mean is that everyone is able to access rather than having to rely on company servers for things like file storage.

Some of our favourite tools:

Skype – perfect for keeping in touch and keeping call costs down. With a small team, Skype can also be used for group meetings (although once your team expands, systems such as ‘Go to Meeting’ are better) and with the ability to ‘share your screen’ it makes it easier to talk through documents.

Dropbox – perfect for storing your documents. If you have a remote team who need access to certain files, folders can be shared amongst members and everyone is notified of updates – no more trying to work out who has the latest version.

Teamwork PM – there are lots of project management software systems available but Teamwork PM is one of our favourites due to the simple way to add and organise tasks, assign them to team members and the in-built time tracker. Other good systems are Basecamp and Podio.

Google – never one to be outdone, Google has its own version of pretty much all of the things mentioned above. With Google Docs you can create, collaborate and share your documents remotely (in a Google Drive account) and they are constantly adding more apps. Plus you can then benefit from your shared calendar and have a ‘google hangout’ to get all of the team together.

Xero – unless you are an Accountant very few business people like to deal with their finances. With Xero, it makes life much easier with the ability to take picture of receipts and upload, integrate bank accounts so reconciling is easier etc. Plus you can invite your Accountant / Bookeeper to the system so they can manage your accounts all in the one place.

Evernote – the makers of Evernote simply state ‘remember everything.’ It is a fabulous system designed to capture notes, pictures, web clippings, audio files – the lot! You can organise your notes into notebooks and it is the simplest way to move towards a paperless office.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list and there are literally thousands of systems available to help you collaborate with your team and run your business efficiently but with so many options available it has never been easier to manage a remote team. And with some careful management there is no reason why a remote team will work any less efficiently than an office full of staff.

Do you have a remote team, what are your tips for managing them?

*With the exception of Xero (which has a free trial but to utilise long-term requires a monthly subscription), most of the systems above have free versions of the software available plus premium versions to take you to the next level.

The Office Connection in Nowra provides virtual administration support, outsourced telephone answering and recruitment services for temporary and permanent administration staff. For more information call Kathleen on: 1300 394 505 or visit the website: www.theofficeconnection.com.au