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5 Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce

Phil Hyssong

CEO , Alternative Communication Services

Recently I have seen many folks talk about transitioning from the workplace to a home office.  This may seem like a dream come true for the employee, but the manager will have a whole bushel of feelings to sort out.  I have had the opportunity to watch my team grow from two people to 30 people, with an extended group of contractors that exceeds 300. All our folks are “deployed,” and the management and communication styles are completely different from a brick-and-mortar operation. 

We have grown to over $10M a year operating this way, and the future is bright for home office-based workers. Below are a few things to keep in mind!

5 Tips for managing a remote workforce

1.

Flexibility

Working from home is not like working in the office.  When one works from home and manages staff from home there is discipline needed to stay focused, but there are also the realities of interruptions.  Home-based folks will want to toss in a load of laundry, begin to marinate dinner or schedule the plumber during work hours.  These things happen, and you need to offer a bit of flexibility to allow these things to happen. The flipside is the extra time that home staff will give the business at night or on the weekends.

2.

Establish time parameters

While start and stop times are typical to any person’s workday, you will not have problems getting a full day of work out of your workers.  You will however have an issue with folks working too much. It is important that home-based workers set parameters and then walk away from the workday. It is very easy to get sucked into the “one last look at email” which often turns into more time than just a quick look.  The good news on this issue is that home-based workers tend to be very conscientious about their work and are happy to spend a little extra time here and there which can make the difference over your competition.

3.

Recognize it's not for all people

Depending on the circumstance, there may not be a choice but to work from home, however, this can be difficult for some people.  Working from home requires discipline and focus. You need to turn that TV off and not be tempted to internet shop. Of course, everyone is entitled to have breaks and downtime, but as a rule you need to be disciplined.  Working from home can be isolating. If you need the stimulus of others you may need to seek that from alternative places. Going to the gym or the grocery store may become your outlet.

4.

Location of work

The job you do can dictate the location of your work.  Some work-at-home folks have a dedicated office in the house, while others may work from the local café or coffee shop.  This may not be a factor, but this needs to be discussed and decided prior to the problem. If a person can work from home, can they travel to their friend’s house to work?  Can they go to a vacation destination and work from there? Does it make a difference? Set those parameters BEFORE they become an issue.

5.

Listen to people

Develop communication strategies for your employees.  It is very easy to get siloed and isolated when working from home. Virtual “Happy Hours” and events can bring folks together in an informal situation allowing for exchange and camaraderie.  It is important to listen to your co-workers and determine what is happening in their lives to know how you might want to structure their day. Sick kids, a bored spouse or a home issue can impact your co-workers’ day.  Keep the lines of communication open and be willing to listen.
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