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Managing the Challenges of a Remote Workforce

Teleworking is no longer a perk of the privileged, it’s the new face of the modern workplace.

Teleworking is no longer a perk of the privileged, it’s the new face of the modern workplace. The regular work-at-home population has grown more than 100 percent over the last decade, and 3.7 million employees now work from home at least half the time.

This paradigm shift—from working with a staff you see every day to one you see a couple of times a year—presents hurdles that are particularly tough for small business owners to navigate. Let’s look at three of the biggest and how to overcome them. 

Communication

If communicating with your employees can be challenging when you’re all working under the same roof, it’s downright daunting when team members are scattered across multiple cities and time zones.

Making sure all team members have access to a variety of communication tools and know how and when to use them is essential. Email may be the default communication method for most businesses, but it’s not always the most efficient. Team instant messaging solutions such as Hipchat and Slack can give communications a much more conversational flow, which can help reduce the gaps of a geographical divide. Bitrix 24 puts a social media spin on the old intranet model, allowing team members to interact in a more casual, personal way in the course of performing their daily duties.

Don’t let the miles keep you from getting some face time with your team members, either. Video tools like Google Hangouts and Skype can help reveal non-verbal communication that will give you insight into how your remote employees are doing. Remember too that tools like these and Facetime are available as mobile apps, and increasingly, younger workers are opting for the mobile experience over desktop. 

Productivity and Accountability

A pervasive fear among managers is that productivity will drop when employees work far from their watchful eye.

The first part of assuring remote workers are productive is establishing expectations. Define what hours everyone is expected to be online, when and how they should check in, and how they can be reached after hours, if necessary. Clarity around job descriptions and performance metrics is also critical. 

Project management tools like LiquidPlanner and workflow managers like Asana can help remote teams collaborate and provide transparency around individual members’ efforts. In a work environment where personal interactions are minimized, and in an age where data and analytics are increasingly relied upon to inform company investments, it’s helpful for remote workers to have a quantifiable measurement of their contributions to the company. 

Connection and Culture

Remote workers miss out on more than the occasional cake in the office kitchen. Personal connections arise from proximity, even if it’s just through casual hallway conversations or morning coffee runs. That lack of face time forces them to face a more abstract problem: Without participating in the day-to-day, person-to-person interactions that organically comprise the company culture, they can easily become out of step with the rest of the staff. Unfortunately, no amount of collaboration software can help people without affinity for each other—and the company culture—work together effectively.

Bringing remote workers in at least once a year will allow them to soak up the local office vibe. Those few days in-house will build a stronger team bond and provide a greater sense of the company’s brand and vision than a year’s worth of video chats. It also doesn’t hurt to toss in some team-building activities, especially if they’re creative in nature like these ones suggested by Wrike.

While the modern workforce may be more geographically diverse than ever, the home office must still retain a cache of resources reliable and robust enough to support the entire team. For growing SMBs, it’s important to equip your headquarters with tools that can operate efficiently for your current, core employees but also scale to support hundreds more as you grow or host remote workers. Considerations in this area include everything from software licenses to office equipment like multifunction printers (MFP).

HP PageWide — an entirely new category in business printing – includes built-in features for fleet management to efficiently support the evolving, modern workforce. For businesses seeking advanced printing solutions, only HP PageWide printers can deliver the fastest speeds, affordable color printing, and at a surprisingly lower cost than expected. It all adds up to best-in-class total cost of ownership.

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