In a relatively short amount of time, technology has changed the lives of business professionals in a wide range of different ways – some of which could have been predicted and some of which few saw coming.
Even “low tech” organizations are now heavily technology dependent, as working “smarter, not harder” is a unifying theory that all entrepreneurs can certainly rally behind in an era where competition is fierce and margins are getting slimmer all the time.
But even innovation brings with it its own unique set of challenges and for many entrepreneurs out there, remote workers are often chief among them. Consider the fact that according to the New York Times, nearly 43% of the workforce in the United States worked remotely at least some of the time in the last 12 months – an increase of 4% since 2012.
Yes, it’s true that working remotely is a direct contributor to increased productivity, stronger company culture, less stress and a decrease in real estate costs and overhead – but it’s also not a “magic solution” that guarantees all of these things by virtue of the fact that it exists as a concept in the first place.
In order to truly take advantage of a remote workforce in the way that you need, the burden falls on you as an entrepreneur to properly manage them. This, in turn, requires you to keep a few key things in mind.
Make them feel like they’re a part of something bigger
As more and more of your workforce begins to work remotely, the number one step that you can take to bring them together is to do precisely that – make them feel like they’re a part of something larger than their home office.
If you think about remote workers differently simply because you don’t see them everyday, rest assured that they’re going to feel it, too. The more disconnected they feel from your actual company, the less invested they’ll be in it – and the quality of work they’re likely to do will suffer as a result.
It is imperative for you to understand that this is your fault, not theirs.
Never overlook an opportunity to bring remote workers into the fold, regardless of how small it may seem. If you’re taking everyone out for lunch on Friday to celebrate the completion of a big project, make sure the invitation is extended to your remote workforce. Make sure that they’re included on every essential memo or email, that every opportunity you give to your on-site employees is also extended to them and make sure that if you’re calling a big meeting, they always have the option to use video chat to feel like they’re a part of it all.
Oftentimes this is less the result of any one big move that you make and more about a series of small ones. You should always be working hard every day to make remote employees feel like they’re “true employees” of your company and not independent contractors. Because at the end of the day, that is exactly what they are and you must never forget it.
Collaboration is not geography dependent
Another one of the most important steps that you can take when managing remote employees as an entrepreneur involves the realization that collaboration, as a concept, is not geography dependent. With the right software, collaboration between on-site employees and those working from home doesn’t just become easier – it essentially becomes effortless.
When you use a tool like Visme (which I founded a little over 4 years ago) to create collateral like presentations, Infographics and other types of content, you’ve already got everything you need to design and collaborate as a team in more ways than one.
Not only do you not need to be a designer to use Visme, but its built in collaboration tools make it perfect for both remote workers and people in the office at the exact same time. As a team leader, you can already easily add users and review user activity regardless of location. You can even set individual permissions or create roles to simplify the sharing of projects and folders between users.
From your perspective, whether someone is in the office or not doesn’t actually matter anymore – everyone has access to the same tool with the same features that you can easily manage from one simple-yet-sophisticated dashboard. You can still see who is working on what and what, exactly, they’re contributing – at that point, the barrier between on-site employee and remote user is 100% artificial.
From the user’s perspective, they already have a powerful and robust solution that they can use to both get work done and share that work with their fellow employees. Now, all you have to do is encourage them to use it.
This is the type of mentality you need to adopt for ALL of your tasks – from that client project you’re working on to the video you’re shooting that you’re going to later put on a site like Uscreen for additional monetization.
Essentially, tools like Visme already exist that both allow you to do better work and bridge the gap between remote and on-site employees at the exact same time. But your employees aren’t just going to find and start using these tools on their own. You have to give them to them, at which point you’re free to sit back and see what they create.
In the end it’s about productivity and efficiency
Yes, giving your employees the ability to work remotely is a massive boost to productivity and efficiency. Sure, it has been attributed to an 82% reduction in stress levels for the average telecommuter’s daily life. It can even help you attract a higher caliber level of younger employee to your company. But without the right management style, you will be able to enjoy exactly none of these benefits.
Only by making every effort to make your remote employees feel like they’re a genuine part of something, along with changing your entire management style to support the new type of productivity that has officially arrived, will you be able to have access to not just a remote workforce but a unified one.
At the end of the day, the goal you’re trying to accomplish is one where there is ultimately no difference between an on-site employee and a remote one. The type of organizational strategy that will actually take you there is something that must begin right at the top, with you.