Anyone who is in business today knows about the growing prevalence of virtual workers. From small startups to large corporations, employers across the globe have team members who work offsite.
You know why this is a good idea. If you use the many tech tools available, your businesses can enjoy the perks of letting employees work from anywhere. Higher morale and lower turnover rates are some of the benefits that come with remote work.
Employers can also benefit by opening up their talent search. Instead of limiting themselves to only the professionals who live nearby, they can hire an application developer or an entire team of database administrators on the other side of the world.
But managing workers who aren't in the same office brings its own challenges. Here are things that managers can do to strengthen their relationships with virtual workers.
Everyone who completes work for your business should have a written document that outlines the expectations you have of them. For salaried workers, that generally comes in the form of a job description, issued during the onboarding process. That document should be reviewed in conjunction with regular performance evaluations and updated as job duties change. For contractors, expectations are usually outlined in a Statement of Work (SOW). This serves as a signed, written agreement of the work to be performed, as well as its timelines. These documents are especially important if your workers are remote, since they won't have as much one-on-one contact with their employers and co-workers.
Stay in Touch
Many of the biggest complaints from remote workers can be resolved through regular communication. Virtual team members can feel disconnected with the goings-on in the office, especially if your team is a hybrid of on-site employees and those who work remotely. Make it easy for team members to communicate with each other throughout the day using collaboration tools and instant messaging services. If possible, gather the entire team periodically for a retreat to help everyone get to know each other in person.
Videoconferencing is a valuable tool for remote teams. Encourage everyone on the team to use the technology regularly and make sure they have the software necessary to launch video calls as often as they'd like. If you have internal staff meetings on a regular basis, set up equipment in your conference room that will allow your remote teams to participate, as well. This small step will not only help remote workers feel more included, it will also improve communication between team members and supervisors.
Whether or not remote work succeeds depends heavily on the workers. It's important to find employees and freelancers who can work independently and actually prefer to do so. A worker who prefers the company of others likely won't succeed in a remote role, so it's important to identify this type of person up front. Behavioral interview questions can help you learn more about each candidate's work style to help you find the right fit.
Use Project Management
Project managers keep large projects on track, constantly monitoring to ensure work keeps to the predetermined timeline. When you're managing virtual teams, effective project management is essential. You need someone who goes beyond ensuring people are at their desks from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, and instead focuses on monitoring to make sure work gets completed on time.
That 8-to-5 work schedule may not work as well when teams are virtual. If you manage a combination of contract and salaried workers, this is especially true. To qualify as contractors, your freelancers must be able to set their own hours, so you'll have to allow some flexibility. However, it isn't unreasonable to expect your team members to be available when co-workers need them. Try to identify times when everyone is likely to be working and request they be online at those times.
Virtual teams are increasingly becoming the norm in workplaces across all industries. By putting the right solutions in place, you can manage your remote employees and contractors using similar methods as those you use with your onsite workers. Open communication will help ensure morale stays high regardless of where workers sit each day.