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January 4, 2017

4 Ways to Manage Remote Workers

Summary:

Creating a team atmosphere can be very difficult with virtual staff, whether employees or contractors -- and 37% are now telecommuting.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Very few entrepreneurs can go from idea to success without a team of people supporting their projects. Besides hiring people in-house for human resources, marketing, production and service jobs, they may need to hire virtual employees and contractors to fill these positions. Either way, they need to create and foster a team-based environment to create a feeling of accountability and responsibility within the shared goal of success.

Creating a team atmosphere can be very difficult with virtual staff, whether employees or contractors. It’s a growing issue because technology opens up so many options for people around the world to work together as a team. According to Gallup, as many as 37% of workers were telecommuting as of 2015.

But there’s more to teamwork than simply working together on the same project. Teamwork involves a sense of camaraderie, support, respect and cohesiveness that can’t always be manufactured simply by the process of a shared project.

See also: The Keys to Forming Effective Teams  

Remote teams are not at a disadvantage in terms of overall performance. In a study conducted by MIT, it was found that teams of dispersed, remote workers often outperformed teams composed of workers within the same location. In part, this is due to the increased productivity that employees and contractors enjoy while working on their own, within their own ideal environment.

But to truly harness that productivity, entrepreneurs with dispersed teams must learn to effectively manage those teams and create a sense of teamwork within them. This can be done by:

  1. Having at least one face-to-face or screen-to-screen meeting. Even virtual face-to-face communication, such as through sites like Skype, helps build relationships and foster trust within the team. People like human contact.
  2. Encouraging collaboration. There is a difference between true collaboration and simply working together. Collaboration allows the team to get excited over a shared goal and inspiration, rather than simply doing their part to achieve an end to a project. Schedule occasional brainstorming chats or conference calls to foster a collaborative environment.
  3. Being clear about expectations, guidelines and standards. One of the best ways to undermine a team is to give every member a different set of rules to play by. Assume that your team members are going to talk and share information outside of scheduled meetings. Keep all their expectations, guidelines and standards uniform so there is no jealousy, competitiveness or implied favoritism.
  4. Giving the team a place to collectively debrief. Create a “virtual water cooler” so that remote employees and contractors can talk, exchange ideas and have an informal place to bond outside of meetings, Harvard Business Review suggests. You can do this by setting up a private group on a social networking platform or by using a program that has group chats or forums.

In a world where more and more employees are working remotely, it is important to take extra steps like these to create a team environment among people who don’t work in the same location. The result can be a sense of community and loyalty that cannot be quantified. Feeling like you’re part of the team leads to lower employee turnover, greater job satisfaction and higher productivity and creativity.

See also: How to Pick Your Insight Team  

So why not schedule that weekly team call? And allow the same technology that enables us to work apart to bring us together.

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About the Author

Mike de Waal is president and founder of Global IQX, a leading software provider of web-based sales and service solutions to employee benefits insurers. He has deep experience in both software development and business management skills.

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