Effectively managing a telework team is no walk in the park. While none of the rules governing traditional employee workflow will apply, there is still a need for parallel processes and protocols that will ensure everyone stays on the same page and – more importantly – to ensure that productivity stays high.
There are a slew of telecommute “styles,” but the following are three of the main options:
- Hiring an outsource team from the get-go
- Working with in-house employees that telecommute part-time
- Transitioning in-house employees to a fully remote work arrangement
All of these setups should me managed similarly, but each also requires its own finessing to achieve the most out of your workforce.
If you have hired an outside team that you will be outsourcing work to, you are now the proud owner of a remote work arrangement that will need carefully managed to get great results. Whether you have hired a web team to create your company website or you have found a virtual assistant based in another country or you have partnered with an outside sales team, you will need to ensure that communication, productivity, and expectations are all managed from day one according to your wishes. It is far easier to set the bar high and then adjust later on if needed than it is to set the bar in these areas low and then try to take back ground as time goes by.
The same is true of in-house employees that are either working from home occasionally or that are making the leap to a full-time telecommute work arrangement. In a part-time scenario, make sure that valuable time is not wasted moving files back and forth from desktop to laptop or from one person’s computer to the cloud. If your employee is either moving to a new state or just looking to eliminate a lengthy commute, be sure that they are set up with a solid Internet connection and that they have all necessary equipment for connecting with your team remotely. It will be a small out of pocket expense in exchange for ensured productivity and efficiency.
To achieve great results with your remote team or employee, consider implementing the following:
- A project management tool that keeps everyone and every task organized and visible to the entire team. This way no one has the chance to let a task fall through the cracks, and all expectations are clearly outlined from the start. A great option here is Basecamp; it allows for multiple users and also has a calendar feature that integrates with many mainstream schedulers such as Google Calendars.
- Weekly temperature check meetings so that everyone involved can chat about project progress and can settle any issues or answer any questions at routine intervals. This will also help eliminate wasted time with hurried meetings scattered throughout the week. A great tool for this is GoToMeeting.
- Consider storing all pertinent project files and documents in a secure cloud-based area; Dropbox is a fantastic option for this.
- If your line of work requires a lot of collaboration between team members, then an intuitive list/task/brainstorming tracking tool is a great bet for keeping the workflow moving forward smoothly. Evernote and Trello are both great options, as they are cloud-based (meaning you can access the information form any computer or mobile device using your secure login) and they are both also extremely easy to use even if you are not especially tech-savvy. They are also not operating system specific, so Apple and Microsoft users, for example, can both share data back and forth without any glitches.
In the end, communication is KEY. Remote workers can be incredibly productive and telecommuting can be a great work arrangement that benefits both the employee and your company. Smaller overhead costs – especially in terms of your office footprint – can save you big bucks, and your employees will save time and money on their daily commute. If you keep lines of communication clear and if you set expectations as specifically as possible from day one, you will likely see great success in managing your telework team.