How to Effectively Manage a Remote Workforce

Fostering Connection in Remote Teams: Building a Cohesive Workforce
6 min read | by Heather Spain
Coffee and Laptop with Remote Team

Although many companies were remote or hybrid by design before 2020, the pandemic forced many organizations to transition to remote work. Most companies didn’t have the luxury of time or much support to make the leap.

And now, four years after the onset of the pandemic—with remote work not going away—remote and hybrid companies are bringing more intention to figuring out how to work in a remote environment.

Whether your company was remote since the early days or it became remote during the pandemic, how do you effectively manage a remote workforce?

Build the Foundation

There are an increasing amount of resources available on this topic—far more info than could fit in this article. Effectively managing a remote workforce—like managing any workforce, really—requires intention and thoughtfulness. It’s essential to empower your workforce to collaborate and connect. The bottom line: Focus not on where, but how, work gets done.

Let’s dig in and explore some of the most important areas to focus on.

Set Clear Expectations 

Setting clear expectations is foundational to setting up a remote workforce for success. This includes everything from making sure employees understand their roles and what’s expected of them. Does everyone understand what success looks like in their role? If you’re not sure, it’s likely they don’t.

Part of ensuring your workforce understands what’s expected of them includes setting and communicating clear expectations for goals, deliverables, and timelines. Err on the side of over-communicating and sharing information through a variety of channels. Finally, focus on outcomes,”not “chair time. This requires leading with trust; It sends the message to employees that it’s not about where (or in some cases, when) they work, but it’s about their results.

Relentlessly Focus on Communication and Collaboration

Communication is important in any organization and arguably even more important in a remote work environment since it may require more intention or new ways of communicating. Good organizational communication both informs and inspires its audience, connecting to employees’ heads and hearts. In this way, communication is an important element of building rapport and trust with your remote workforce. 

It can be useful to think about communication as a conversation, rather than a monologue. Whenever possible, invite employees to engage with the shared communication. This gives you more feedback on how your message landed, and it can create more inclusion by providing another avenue for people who aren’t as comfortable sharing “live” in meetings. Use that feedback to adjust or improve communication—this shows that you’re listening. 

Most remote organizations use a variety of channels to communicate (i.e. video, team communication platforms, intranet, asynchronous messaging videos, email, etc.). Think carefully about how to use each tool. A great idea here is to create a “channel map”—list all of your organization’s communication and collaboration tools, and share guidelines for how and when to use them.

In addition to equipping your organization with all the necessary collaboration and communication tools, make sure your remote employees are also set up to succeed. Do they have strong internet connections and a good place to work remotely, and do they know how to use all the tools and technology? Organizations often provide a technology or equipment allowance for remote employees. Check out this article exploring perks and benefits for a remote workforce.

2020 taught us the reality of “Zoom fatigue.” Combat “that meeting could have been an email” frustration by building an intentional meeting culture. This may sound obvious, but ensure all meetings have a clear purpose, agenda, and action items. One type of meeting to really prioritize is the one-on-one. Particularly with a remote workforce, make sure managers are meeting regularly with their team members, providing regular feedback, and checking in with them—not just on their work, but as humans.

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Fuel Connection and Recognition

Building connection with your remote workforce is at the heart of employee engagement and retention, and goes far beyond a single employee event or interaction. Think broadly about how to create opportunities to bring your employees together in meaningful ways—whether through virtual or in-person offsites. Also, how can you simulate less formal “social collisions”? Since there aren’t natural opportunities to bump into a colleague in a remote environment, create “watercooler moments” through social Slack channels, interactive lunch and learns, remote buddy programs, or mini icebreaker activities at the beginning of meetings.

Recognition is another important piece of ensuring your remote workforce feels connected. Make sure to acknowledge and celebrate your employees’ achievements, both on an organizational and an individual level.  

Ensure Hiring, Onboarding, and Professional Development Bolster Remote Work

It’s important that your entire employee journey sets up your remote workforce for success. Beginning with hiring, make sure job descriptions, interviews, and your entire process is designed to hire candidates who will thrive in a remote environment. Create strong remote onboarding programs that start employees off on the right foot. Equip them with what they need to know and get them excited to be part of your organization (remember, connect with heads and hearts).

Offer ongoing training and professional development opportunities that support your remote workforce’s needs and interests. Consider not just the training content, but how best to deliver the training (i.e. async vs. live, daylong vs, “micro” training). We know managers are key to employee success, so make sure you provide your managers with additional training and support to effectively manage their remote teams.

Final Thoughts

Through removing all the bells and whistles of the physical workplace, remote work has forced us to think about how we work. What are the structures and tools we can put into place to foster great work environments?

A lot of these best practices are about creating more structure, guidelines, and intention. This isn’t about creating more rules and rigidity. The goal here is to increase clarity and ease so your remote workforce can spend their time doing the work, not figuring out how to do the work.

At BlendMe, we think deeply about building remote organizations and have been providing remote workforce consulting since 2013. We work remotely and manage a group of remote consultants, so we employ these practices ourselves. If your organization is making the leap to remote or hybrid work and you’re seeking some support, please reach out!

Originally Published by Heather Spain on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Updated on Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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