Remote work has become common across the modern corporate world. However, there's a big difference between allowing the occasional work-from-home day and hiring an employee who works remotely full time.
It can be challenging to ensure that your in-office team and your remote team members stay aligned, and that those who work outside the office don't feel excluded from your company culture. To help mitigate these growing pains, a group of entrepreneurs share their best tips for fellow business owners who are new to managing remote employees. From testing your tech stack to planning virtual team activities, here's what they recommend.
Iron out your technology and workflow processes
Technical difficulties and IT issues can be a challenge for any organization, but if you're going to hire remote employees, it's important to ensure that the tools and processes you're using function properly for someone who can't physically be in the office.
"You must ensure that you have proven workflow processes and tested tools," says Duran Inci, co-founder and COO of Optimum7. "Tools for internal communication, workflows and project management will allow you to stay on top of your remote employee’s progress and performance."
Train them in person if possible
Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of Be Inspired PR, brings every new remote hire into her company's headquarters for in-person onboarding and training with the rest of the team.
"I find it's vital for everyone to meet face to face to build a working relationship and trust," she says. "It's also easier for the new employee to absorb information and processes when done in person. This sets the precedent for the working relationship moving forward."
Get clear on their work schedule
Raymond Kishk, co-founder of Interstate Air Conditioning & Heating, notes that one big challenge with his first remote hire was nailing down the employee's schedule and tracking their work.
"The most important thing is having their work schedule set up properly," Kishk explains. "In the beginning, the employee's schedule wasn't ironed out and we kept getting discouraged. As programs like Slack became available, it was a lot easier to collaborate."
Set expectations for your entire team
According to Kristin Kimberly Marquet, founder and creative director of Fem Founder, the best way to ensure your team stays intact with new remote employees is to set clear expectations at the beginning.
"Make sure everyone understands their role and their overall responsibilities," Marquet says. "I always have a team meeting when hiring remote employees to ensure everyone is on the same page."
Schedule weekly team video conferences
Once you've set your initial expectations, it's important to keep up that momentum with regularly scheduled communications. Video calls can be particularly effective to ensure clear, "face-to-face" discussions. That's why Brian David Crane, founder of Caller Smart Inc., hosts weekly Zoom meetings with his team.
"During these meetings we discuss ongoing projects, goals and best practices if need be," he says. "We also keep a highly detailed, cloud-based wiki with all of our meeting notes and project roadmaps."
Host virtual team get-togethers
In a traditional office setting, team lunches and after-hours gatherings are common practice. However, because remote employees can't participate, they may inadvertently feel left out, says Punit Shah, partner and CMO of My Trio Rings.
"In-person small talk leads to new ideas leads to new directions, and remote teams will always miss out on this," Shah says. "Focus on activities that can loop them in -- even if it's not directly tied to an active initiative. For example, host virtual breakfasts between team members or as a group."
Bring everyone together at least once a year
No matter how well your team collaborates in the virtual world, there really is no substitute for in-person face time. For this reason, Ismael Wrixen, CEO of FE International, brings all of his company's global employees together for an annual meeting.
"This has included flying in remote workers from the far corners of the planet," notes Wrixen. "If you are investing in an employee, an extra few hundred dollars to onboard a person is often money well spent."