Guest author Scott Gerber is the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council.
A strong remote workforce is the secret weapon of many of today’s successful startups. Rather than relying only on people who live near the office—often in the most expensive markets—they hire the best talent from around the world to further their mission.
Some companies go for an all-remote approach, which brings its own challenges. Others have team members working in a central location alongside remote workers. It can be a special challenge to manage both a remote and an in-house team.
With that in mind, I asked 11 business owners from YEC to share their own idea—from basic communication strategies to specific working processes—for managing remote workers.
The biggest challenge with managing remote workers is decreased communication. This stems from the fact that they are not working in the same office and most likely have different office hours. To counter this, our team meets for 15 minutes every morning on Slack to review what we’ve worked on the day before, what we’re tackling today and any issues that have come up along the way. Communication is key, and a “face-to-face” every morning ensures that we’re all on the same page. —Jessica Oralkan, Collecteurs
Have Daily Phone Calls
In the beginning, we used all the fancy collaboration software and relied on digital communication for remote workers. This did not work for a few reasons. First, it’s easy for people to feel divided when they do not connect in a real way. An “us versus them” mentality can develop. Second, nuance and gray area are lost in digital communication. Third, you can get much more done on a call than you can by messaging each other. To fix this, we started conducted a weekly phone call, which was not enough. Now we have daily phone calls that are documented and the notes are shared with the team. This prevents time and financial loss due to miscommunication and builds camaraderie through human interaction that reinforces teamwork and a shared goal. It’s old-school, but it works. —Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell
Hold Traction Huddles
I manage a staff that is mostly one state away, with others in more remote locations. I myself am remote. We follow the Rockefeller Habits/Traction method of management for our offsite and onsite teams: We have a daily huddle for leadership followed by a daily huddle for the team. It’s a video conference meeting. In the beginning, all of our staff hated it and complained. However, I believe it’s been singlehandedly responsible for our triple-digit growth. Now that it has been in place for a while, the team looks forward to it in order to get their questions answered and feedback on their projects. I cannot recommend the daily huddle more highly. —Kim Walsh-Phillips, Elite Digital Group
Remember that your remote employees are an asset, and can sometimes provide unique skill sets that internal employees cannot. Rather than being overly stringent and attempting to manage their time and efficiency on a day-to-day basis, provide them the freedom they require as remote workers. Keep in mind that these individuals aren’t in the office, by nature can’t commit to the same level of focus as an employee without life’s distractions living just a door away. Measure their performance, and as long as they’re attending daily meetings and working as effectively as others, treat your remote employees like secret weapons. Constant monitoring of time, and keeping track of their every move, will only serve to engender stress and reduce their efficacy. —Blair Thomas, EMerchantBroker
Get Everyone on the Same Chat App
There are a lot of apps out now that are easy to manage. Just put the whole team, offsite and onsite, under the same management software, and establish a chat app that all employees must be logged into at all times. That way, everyone knows where everyone else is on tasks, and the remote employees can coordinate almost as if they were there. —Matt Doyle, Excel Builders
Cultivate Time-Zone Awareness
We have two offices on opposite coasts and multiple remote workers. Whenever we bring on new people, we make sure that we’re very clear with the team about where they are located and the time zone they are working in. We also have their location stored in an employee database that anyone can look up. This makes scheduling and assigning tasks much smoother since the team knows when other members will be working. —Micah Johnson, GoFanbase
Include Remote Employees in the Fun
One of our key team members works remotely, and we spent a lot of time putting together a strategy for communicating with her on work-related issues. But eventually we noticed that she was missing out on really bonding with the team during all of the casual, fun interactions that happen around the office. We started including her in team happy hours via Skype, and we’ve become more intentional about make sure she’s included in spontaneous celebrations that happen when we get good news. It’s made a big difference in how connected she feels and makes all of our work more enjoyable. —Martina Welke, Zealyst
Use A Specific Platform
We have recently begun using a continuous-feedback and information-sharing platform called WeVue. It allows the team to actively engage with each other and with the company to solve business issues and have a bit of fun. It helps us minimize the need to hold meetings while also giving people a voice into company decisions that affect them. —Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture
Create An Internal Blog
Use a blogging tool like BlogIn to create a blog for internal use, and then encourage everyone at your company to use it to post updates and meeting notes. The single biggest helper for us in terms of communicating information has been to have one person at every meeting take notes and then post those notes online with accompanying slides or other material. That allows people who weren’t there (including other in-house team members) to get involved in the conversation. At a certain point, the amount of content available on the blog may become too much to reference, so you can create a wiki or a document to refer to the most important posts that get updated. We like BlogIn because it also has integrations for Slack, plus group and wiki functionality. —Mattan Griffel, One Month
Keep Remote Workers In The Loop
Leverage technology to make remote workers feel connected and included. We use Slack to keep people informed about news, activities and events and keep them in the loop about day-to-day life at Allocadia. We also stream companywide meetings and presentations so off-site workers can participate through video. —Katherine Berry, Allocadia
Invest In Travel
Our company has two in-person retreats a year. Although it’s expensive, it’s one of the best culture investments we’ve made. It’s a two-day event, although remote employees often work from the office a couple of days on either side of the retreat, and we take a deep-dive into the company strategy, financials and major milestones. But work is only 25 percent of the retreat, with the rest of the time is carved out for small-group and company-wide games, meals and hikes. The only snag is that it sometimes feels incongruous with our otherwise lean culture to fly, room and board so many people. But the intangible connectedness that comes as a result is incredibly valuable and hard to replicate digitally. —Fan Bi, Blank Label
Photo courtesy of Zendesk