In today’s digital world, remote work is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, a 2017 New York Times survey revealed that 43 percent of employed Americans worked remotely in some capacity.
Writers, web designers, graphic designers, and social media gurus are just a few examples of professionals who often opt for their home or local coffee shop over the traditional office setting.
If you’re interested in expanding your team by hiring new employees or outsourcing, it’s vital that you learn how to manage remote teams effectively, because alongside the numerous advantages there are many unique challenges associated with remote workforce management.
So, what are the pros and cons of a remote staff? Where do you find the right team members? How do you manage remote employees?
The Benefits of Hiring Remote Team Members
The Coalition Technologies family is worldwide. While we do have our core in-house team here in Los Angeles, many of our team members work from all over the globe, including numerous team leads and even our president. We’ve found that this approach has been beneficial for our business, and our success is largely attributable to how we manage remote teams.
Now, what works for us may not necessarily be ideal for your company. However, there are some clear, universal advantages associated with using a remote workforce.
- Boost Productivity and Retention
For remote employees, telecommuting offers an appealing work-life balance that allows them to choose their work environments and set their own vibe. This helps maintain morale, which leads to improved productivity. It also helps with retention. It’s no secret that finding, hiring, and training new employees is expensive, so reducing turnover while cutting costs at the same time gives a company a significant edge.
Some of our team members are parents, and having the ability to be at home during the day is extremely meaningful and practical for them.
For others, remote-work gives them a unique freedom and flexibility not available to traditional office employees. Two of our team members are actually married and are able to travel the United States in an RV, having all kinds of unique experiences, while still leading comfortable and competitive professional lives.
The benefits of remote-work make our remote team members even more dedicated to their positions!
- Reduce Fixed Operating Costs
Remote workforce management is significantly less expensive, as large remote teams can be managed online without need for additional office space, utilities, in-office amenities, and administrative supplies. These fixed costs add up over time, but with a remote workforce the resources can be expended elsewhere.
- Expand Your Reach
When you open your company up to a global workforce, the pool of available talent grows enormously. People from different backgrounds can offer unique perspectives and skills that can be quite valuable to your company.
The Challenges of Remote Workforce Management
While the pros tend to outweigh the cons, if you plan to manage remote teams it’s crucial that you understand the downsides too, and how to handle them.
- Lack of Face-to-Face Interactions
Sometimes an email or phone call isn’t enough to make your point. In-person interactions make it easy to portray your message more clearly and also provide additional clarification as needed. If you’re not on top of it, trying to manage employees remotely can lead to miscommunications and errors.
The best solution to this common problem is to ensure concise, direct communications at all times. Don’t leave anything up to speculation or subjective assessment. Track important information, write things down, and maintain frequent contact. At Coalition Technologies, we mitigate this risk with regular video-based communication and a variety of follow-up processes to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Decreased Concentration / Focus
When employees are in the office, they’re naturally going to be engaged in work, because it’s a workplace. Trying to manage remote teams and keep them focused and on track can be difficult, as remote workers are working in an environment of their own choosing.
One method for dealing with this problem is to provide clear deadlines, so employees know what’s expected of them, and then allowing employees to govern their own workflows. At Coalition we’ve found that to be very successful: Our employees are on the hook for getting their work done, and we don’t police how they do it. Instead, we maintain detailed process and workflow documents, and templates, to help guide employees through their workflows.
If a particular employee has problems with the freedoms of working remotely, it’s helpful to have their team lead coach them in strategies for increasing their productivity, from suggestions as banal as turning off loud music to more comprehensive methods like scheduling certain tasks for certain times of the day.
- Less Collaboration
Sometimes, there is power in numbers. In an office setting, employees can work together to create results that wouldn’t be possible alone. By nature, remote work makes face-to-face collaboration difficult.
One solution to this problem is to keep your collaborations in-house and delegate packaged workloads to your remote workers. Another, more inclusive option is to foster lateral and hierarchical communication through cloud software, and to a lesser extent meetings. At Coalition we use Basecamp 3, as well as in-house software solutions, to foster collaboration.
- Difficulty Maintaining a Corporate Culture
While you can certainly manage remote teams from afar, creating a positive company corporate culture can be tough. After all, it’s not as easy to celebrate birthdays, enjoy lunch breaks, or even have water cooler conversations in a remote setting. Many remote employees, rarely, if ever get to know their coworkers on a social level.
Creating a corporate culture when you mainly manage remote employees isn’t easy. The best solution is to be the type of company that a good remote employee—someone attentive, proactive, and self-sufficient—would thrive at.
On some level, however, a remote workforce means letting go of some of the presence of a company’s culture in its employees’ lives. You can, however, mitigate this loss with company meetings, training videos, documentation, and the promotion of excellent managers, as well as through the creation of incentives based on performance or compliance.
Another trick we use at Coalition is the use of a company-wide email thread, where major wins can be celebrated: whether for our clients or for our team member’s individual lives…We’re always excited to hear of a team member’s engagement, graduation, big move, etc.!
Hiring International Employees
The beauty of remote workforce management is that you have access to an entire planet full of talent. Though there are some legal and accounting hurdles to overcome, if you expand your hiring beyond the country’s borders, you open yourself to professionals from across the globe, who can offer unique skill sets and perspectives. Additionally, when you manage remote teams from different time zones, you can have work underway around the clock.
Where to Find Remote Workers
If remote workforce management sounds like an ideal approach for your business, it’s essential that you know where to look. After all, the key to successfully expanding your remote team is finding the right people. LinkedIn can be an excellent tool for finding people with relevant experience. You can also post on many job sites that are geared towards remote work, including Tested Recruits, FlexJobs, Remote.co, SHRM, and Virtual Vocations.
In contrast, don’t go for sites like Craigslist that everyone uses. Many people mistake a remote job as a ticket to easy street, which it definitely is not, and that’s not the kind of mentality you want to be hiring. Generally speaking (though there are exceptions), job sites that require users to pay a fee can help weed out the less serious applicants.
Start Small and Expand Slowly
The trick to effective remote workforce management is not to bite off more than you can chew. Test the waters by outsourcing a project here and there, and then keep moving in that direction if it seems to be working. Once the candidate has proven to be an appropriate fit, you can hire them with confidence. Learning how to manage remote teams starts with who you hire, so be sure to find the right people so you can enjoy smooth sailing.
Coalition Technologies’ Experience
Here at Coalition Technologies, we’ve had tremendous success working with professionals from all over the world. That’s how we’ve become one of the leading SEO marketing firms not just in Los Angeles but in the entire industry.
Learning how to manage remote teams effectively is an ongoing endeavor that takes time and dedication, so don’t worry if you run into a few hiccups along the way. Once you get into the flow of it, you’ll find that managing remote employees becomes normal and natural over time. Start now, and see where it takes you. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results!