How to Manage a Remote Team

Working from home, either full-time or part-time has become a popular option for both employees and business owners. More and more companies are becoming 100% remote.   Workers like working from home because it saves commuting time and money and can provide a great work-life balance. Employers like the ability to attract top talent (no matter where they live) and save on the overhead costs that an office requires. The number of remote workers is up 115% over the past ten years.

Because I work with so many different kinds of companies, I have a unique vantage point. I see positives and negatives with a remote workforce. On the positive side, having remote workers gives you a much deeper talent pool. You can hire the best person for the job, not just the best person who happens to live in your area. Offering remote work allows you to retain valued employees who have a personal or health issue that prevents them from coming into the office. Parents who want remote or flexible work tend to value it so highly that they become very loyal employees. For international companies, allowing workers to work from home makes scheduling calls and conversations much easier. As a boss, creating a company culture that allows remote work gives you much more flexibility in terms of your own travel and work-life balance.

But, remote work can also lead to poorly trained employees, distrustful managers, and a lack of engagement.  According to Dan Schawbel, author of “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation,” research also shows that remote workers are more likely to quit their jobs because of loneliness and a lack of engagement with the work and company.

Making Remote Work

What can employers do to help employees feel less lonely and more engaged? The first step is to make sure that managers are prepared to supervise remote workers. It’s important that your managers are focused on results and performance, not whether or not the employee is sitting at a desk. Managers must be comfortable training, supervising and leading over the phone and email, instead of face to face.

For the last three years I’ve been traveling 1/3 of the time.  I needed to set up systems so I have remote access to everything in the office.  I have to make it a priority to stay in touch with our employees so they feel the connection and don’t experience long delays in getting questions answered.  This is critical for maintaining productivity and results for our clients.

In a traditional office, the on-boarding or training process can be somewhat flexible and informal. After all, if the new employee has a question, you’re right there to answer it. In a remote office it’s important to have more training materials in written form and to have your training process spelled out.

When hiring, make sure not to skimp on the interview schedule, even if it’s being done over SKYPE or the phone. You want to make sure that the people you hire are not only a great fit for the job, but are also comfortable working remotely. For some people, the loneliness of working from home makes it a bad fit.

To deal with feelings of isolation and lack of engagement, Schwabel recommends video conferencing instead of phone calls, and allowing workers to lead meetings. He also recommends having onsite meetings or social get togethers at least once a year. If only one or two employees will be working remotely, it’s important that you find ways to include them in the day-to-day conversations of the office.

There are some jobs that will never be able to be done remotely, and some people that will never be comfortable working alone. But, for the right company and person, remote work can be an excellent fit, as long as you’re prepared.

Collecting from a company that has a virtual office and remote employees can be difficult.  But since we understand how that actually works, we know how to track people down and how to get past the common excuses.  We have strategies to make them feel pressure even when they think they are just ghosts and this results in success for our clients.

If you know a customer has a virtual office and remote employees, getting extra contact information up front can be critical to getting your invoices paid.  This includes the names, physical addresses, cell phone numbers, and email addresses of the senior executives and finance personnel responsible for processing and approving your invoices.


About The Author:

Dean Kaplan is Principal at The Kaplan Group. Dean's exper­tise is widely rec­og­nized in the debt col­lec­tion indus­try. His advice has been pub­lished in a num­ber of indus­try newslet­ters such as Credit Today and InsideARM and he is a fre­quent speaker at indus­try events.