In the past few years, we've seen many companies switch from an in-person office environment to a more remote workforce.
Upwork estimates that 36.2 million Americans will be remote workers by 2025.
Some people love the flexibility of setting their work hours and rolling out of bed to get right to work. While others prefer in-person interactions and a little more structure—but whether you like it or not, remote work isn’t going anywhere.
In the rapidly evolving workplace landscape, HR and people operation leaders must adopt specific strategies and best practices to successfully manage remote employees—or they will be left behind.
Remote workforce management vs. in-person workforce management
Managing any group of people isn't exactly easy but to manage a remote team of people you can't even see? That can feel impossible—especially to the inexperienced.
As you already know, a good manager doesn't need to be breathing down their team's necks.
Whether you're managing a remote team or in-office employees, most good managerial traits remain the same:
- Always lead by example
- Learn and utilize your team member's strengths
- Set proper expectations and deadlines
- Be open and learn how to communicate properly with each individual
- Provide proper resources and guidance
- Build proper processes
- Back your team up
- Show gratitude
- Set boundaries
If you already have experience managing a team, remote workforce management isn't too different. You’ll be applying the same skills to remote teams, simply in a different context.
There are two major things to keep in mind when creating a good remote work environment: Common remote challenges and providing the proper remote work resources.
Common challenges for remote teams
When it comes to managing remote employees, here are some things you might want to consider.
Feelings of isolation: lack of face time with coworkers
Isolation while working remotely is real and can certainly have some negative effects on employee engagement and employee productivity. Zippia believes that 50% of remote workers feel lonely at least once a week.
While working remotely, it’s very easy to get into a “heads-down” approach to ensure maximum productivity. This can be great in spurts but is certainly not sustainable and can eventually lead to feelings of isolation and even burnout.
Tackling employee isolation
A good way to combat isolation for remote team members is by introducing ways for your team to interact with each other outside of their traditional day-to-day work responsibilities.
Creating spaces where people can unwind but still connect in ways that they genuinely enjoy allows them to reset and strengthen relationships.
These spaces might be as simple as a designated “hangout” meeting where remote employees can jump on a call to catch up with each other. Or maybe a fantasy football league that team members can participate in together.
These opt-in style meets help boost morale by offering your team the ability to feel comfortable and connected, without the pressure of their day-to-day work.
Some team members may recognize the signs of isolation and proactively try to combat them on their own, which is great—but when it comes to remote workforce management, it’s important to ensure you’re raising awareness and offering support to your team.
Video fatigue is also real and can also have some negative effects on your team. According to Forbes, 69% of remote workers report increased burnout from digital communication tools.
Anyone with an iPhone knows that screen times are on the rise (or maybe that’s just me). Many people spend their days working in front of the computer, just to get off and relax with some TV or video games.
Too much screen time can have negative effects on both your physical and mental health.
It’s important to encourage your team to get out, get active and move their bodies—especially for remote employees.
Being proactive about video fatigue can make combatting it much easier.
- Encourage your team to take breaks
- Ensure no time is being wasted on video calls (and if you haven’t already, maybe put together a how-to on good meeting hygiene)
- Incentivize active lifestyles with health and wellness benefits and rewards
- Organize in-person events (running club, dog-walking group, pick-up basketball, etc.)
- Initially, it may seem counterproductive for remote workers to be taking breaks and getting away from their screens but the reality is that this is one of the keys to longevity.
Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks
Communication breakdowns and information bottlenecks can happen to any company without the proper procedures in place—but remote work has the potential to magnify your communications challenges. You can't simply tap a coworker on the shoulder and ask them to clarify something for you.
This can be avoided with the proper software and communication practices. Ensuring your team has communication resources that they know how to properly use and genuinely enjoy will go a long way.
Don’t let your teams or information get siloed. Open up communication channels and keep your whole team connected.
Make sure your team feels heard, give them feedback and equip them with the proper communication tools.
More on communication and other remote workforce management tools shortly.
“With great flexibility comes great responsibility” or whatever Spider-man's uncle said about remote workers.
I kid—but it’s true. One of the best parts of remote work (the flexibility) can also be the downfall for many remote workers.
If you live in a busy house with kids and/or animals running around, getting distracted can be quite easy.
It’s important to help make sure your remote teams are building routines that work for them. Certain areas of the house might be better to work in than others. Different times of the day might be more effective for different people.
Avoiding distractions is obviously important but these distractions can vary. Working with each individual and giving them the confidence to build a routine that works for both them and the team will be a tremendous benefit to your company.
A few ideas to keep in mind for team members dealing with distractions:
- Use headphones
- Turn off alerts
- Clear desk
- Meal prepping/planning
Some other keys to help avoid distractions might include:
“Water cooler” channel
A designated spot for team members to talk about anything they want, non-work related will help keep all other channels clean of distractions.
People are going to talk about personal things at work, even remote workers—we can’t avoid this but we can give them a place to do so without causing further distractions and rifts in communication.
Allowing your team to designate a certain day of the week to go heads-down on their work and not take any meetings can help improve productivity and allow your team to reset and be more present the rest of the work week.
Co-working spaces are a great way to bridge that gap between remote and in-person work. It allows your team the option of going in and collaborating in person, without taking away the flexibility of working from home.
A co-working space is great for teams who can’t justify the cost and energy of maintaining their own office but still feel the need to occasionally tackle in-person collaboration.
Other teammates feeling distracted may also benefit from creating a daily schedule or to-do list, or simply even just breaking down their tasks into smaller ones. Recognizing these small opportunities for improvement could go a long way but again, every individual has their own needs.
Strategies and tools for successful remote workforce management
Providing your team with the proper resources is essential in operating a remote workforce. The right remote workforce management software can make everyone's lives much easier. These tools should be easy to navigate and provide your team with the right value.
Some of these resources can get quite pricey (especially for bigger teams) so you want to be sure to do proper research and take advantage of any free trials to test the product.
Although some of these options may seem a little expensive, it's best to make the proper investments early on—but only if your team is going all-in on working remotely.
Slack is where most of the magic at ZayZoon happens. It’s the software every team member uses as their main communication function. You can message, send video or even call via Slack.
It allows you to create individual or group conversations for remote employees, as well as, channels where certain topics or themes can live.
Every channel on Slack serves a different purpose, whether it be for professional or personal usage which allows people to communicate in real time with each other.
Confluence is where we store most of the goods. Anything that needs to be seen by the entire team—until the end of time, lives in Confluence.
This is where we keep all our processes and procedures. Any valuable information at ZayZoon can be accessed by any member of the team via Confluence.
In a remote work setting, sometimes you just need to dump a bunch of information onto a team member—which isn’t very fun if you have to type it all out.
Loom allows users to screen record while also recording themselves to make interactive walkthrough videos. These are especially useful for certain teams to demonstrate what they’ve been working on with other teams.
Lattice is the tool we use to track our individual and company-wide goals. It’s one centralized location where we can see our main company goals and all the individual goals that will be attributed to them.
Lattice allows us to track our progress towards each goal that we then monitor, review and realign quarterly.
CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, famously told his employees they needed to return to the office four days a week. He cited the need for in-person creative collaboration as the driving force.
This is a common concern for many creative teams who work from home and the reality is that it’s hard to truly replicate the results you get from collaborating with your team in person—but programs like Figma and Miro do make things a little bit easier.
Figma and Miro are tools that team members can use to collaborate asynchronously and also in real-time. For remote work, the real-time collaboration aspect is immensely powerful.
Miro is optimized for team brainstorming while Figma allows users to create “boards” that multiple designers can operate on together to help bring these designs to life.
Building company culture
Knowing your team operates with the same intent, the same vision and the same mission should help ease any anxiety you may have. Properly instilling these values in your team and leading by example should ensure that everyone is pulling their weight.
At ZayZoon, we live by four core values that not only help push our company forward every day—but also help everyone stay on the same page, especially while working remotely, and focus on our end goal.
- People Driven
Building core values and a mission for your team to follow is more than just a marketing exercise, it’s what will bring your team together and guide them through adversity.
When it comes to company culture, it’s extremely important to lead by example. Creating core values that your team can get behind is one thing, living those core values and bringing them to life is a whole other.
Ensure your team knows your core values right from the beginning. While recruiting, make sure you can see your core values in your candidates and reaffirm them during onboarding.
Your positive influence as manager and core values should constantly reassure your team why they’re doing what they do, whether they’re in the office or at home.
It’s also important to constantly recognize your team’s accomplishments and how they pertain to your core values.
At ZayZoon, we have an opportunity each day to bring up where we might be “stuck” in our workflows which is great for seeking assistance from the team. Shortly after that, we offer “shoutouts” to the team based on one (or more) of our core values.
We address the stucks as a team and celebrate the shoutouts as a team. This not only brings the team closer but also helps us reinforce our core values every day.
Setting expectations/building processes
Building the proper processes and setting expectations are crucial for any manager but when it comes to managing remote workers, these are essential.
Poor processes and loose expectations may get you by for a little bit but you will quickly realize the importance of sustainability in your company—and at that point, it may be too late.
Eliminate the “need” to micromanage (and the stress and anxiety that comes with it) by developing trust in your team.
Be clear in your communication—stay open to feedback and don’t be afraid to share your concerns with the team.
The proper processes and expectations will look different for every company but some general practices to keep in mind would be:
- Set clear expectations with hard deadlines on projects
- Revisit processes regularly and ensure they’re up to date
- Utilize feedback from your team
The proper resources and software can help make things a little bit easier. At ZayZoon we use a program called Lattice that allows everyone to input their quarterly goals, align them to bigger company goals then track their progress. This allows each person to have their own goals to work towards while supporting the rest of the team.
As the manager, you know what’s best for your team but it’s also important to be able to adapt and evolve. Use the processes that work best for you but don’t be afraid to try something new if it will benefit your team.
At the end of the day, it’s all about setting them up for success.
When it comes to a productive remote workforce, empowering your employees goes beyond just management. Offering them tools for financial empowerment can boost morale, drive engagement and build loyalty. When employees feel they have control over their financial well-being, it directly influences their performance and commitment to the company.
Having a team that feels financially empowered will take you far but it is a very complex subject. ZayZoon can help take some of that pressure off. With modern benefits like ZayZoon, your company can quickly and easily offer financial resources to help empower your team—at no cost to you.
Managing a remote workforce
Remote workforce management certainly comes with some challenges, but it also presents an opportunity. An opportunity to innovate, adapt, and grow. And as the landscape of work continues to evolve, so must our strategies and tools for managing remote teams.
If you're intrigued by the concept of financial empowerment and Earned Wage Access and how it can engage today’s employees, book a call with us.
Learn more about empowering your employees (whether they work from home or not) and the tools you need to help your team reach beyond their goals. We’re always happy to talk.