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Managing a Remote Workforce: Tools and Strategies for Small Business Owners Featured

Managing a Remote Workforce: Tools and Strategies for Small Business Owners a person sitting at a desk with a laptop and papers

The shift to remote work opened up new opportunities for small business owners to access talent outside of their immediate geographical area. However, managing a distributed, remote workforce also comes with unique challenges. As a small business owner, you need strategies and tools in place to communicate effectively, keep employees engaged and productive, and foster company culture from afar. 

Embrace Communication Tools

With employees spread out in different locations, clear, frequent communication becomes even more critical. Leverage the array of technology solutions available to keep everyone connected. 

- Video conferencing tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams allow for face-to-face interactions during meetings and collaboration sessions. Set regular video calls instead of relying solely on email and chat apps. 

- Instant messaging platforms like Slack offer streamlined channels for real-time, organization-wide or small group chats. Employees can easily discuss quick questions or clarifications. 

- Productivity suites like G Suite, Office 365 and Asana provide document sharing, cloud storage, calendars, project management features and more in one centralized platform. 

- Surveys and polls can quickly gather employee feedback so you stay tuned into remote workforce needs. Free tools like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms and Doodle Polls simplify collecting responses.

Prioritize Transparency

With a remote team, making company goals, expectations and priorities transparent is essential for keeping everyone rowing in the same direction. Overcommunicate using the tools above, and avoid assuming employees know the importance of their role and tasks. Clearly state responsibilities, objectives and instructions. 

Promote Work-Life Balance

Without office interactions and visibility into home lives, it can be difficult to promote healthy work-life balance across a remote team. Set core hours when you expect general availability instead of demanding 24/7 efforts. Discourage overworking with burnout-prevention policies allowing sufficient break times and enforcing vacation policies. Foster work flexibility for better integrating professional and personal life. 

Focus on Output Over Hours

Tying performance reviews and assessments to actual output rather than hours worked or facetime in the office motivates remote employees with greater autonomy. Set clear deliverables and deadlines, then evaluate based on quality of work instead of time spent online or reaching inbox zero. Output-focused management better aligns with remote work autonomy. 

Prioritize Cybersecurity 

With increased remote access comes higher cybersecurity risks. Protect sensitive company and customer data with cybersecurity policies enforced through tools like password managers for strong credentials, multi-factor authentication, VPNs for secure connections, and endpoint protection software to block threats. Set data compliance rules for how remote employees store, transfer and share files.

Invest in Professional Development 

Out of sight employees can mean out of mind for development opportunities. Actively invest time and funds into upskilling remote staff with access to online courses, skill development platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Gale Courses, and virtual workshops or conferences in their field. Offer to cover costs for relevant certifications or accreditations as well. 

Encourage Collaboration and Connectedness

With fewer organic opportunities for informal chats and team building, you need to foster connectedness across distributed employees. Use video calls instead of just email and chat apps whenever possible. Schedule regular video lunches, virtual coffee breaks or online social events. Create dedicated channels on chat platforms for both social and professional discussions and sharing. Recognize great work with mailed care packages or e-gift cards. 

Managing a productive and satisfied remote workforce as a small business owner requires embracing the latest collaborative technologies while focusing on transparent communication, output-based performance, cybersecurity policies and professional development. With deliberate strategies supporting work flexibility and employee connectedness, small businesses can unlock growth opportunities through remote employees.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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