Are you thinking about starting a remote business or transitioning your current business to a remote one?
Lots of companies in the US are doing the same because there are tons of benefits. Business expenses are lower, and employees are more satisfied and productive, for example.
But if you have never operated a remote business before, it’s understandable if you have concerns. How will you manage your employees? How will you communicate with them, and how will you know if they are working?
Here are some top tips for running a remote business and managing remote employees.
1. Invest in Remote Business Equipment
To run a remote business, you need to have a good foundation, and that starts with remote office equipment.
Whether you plan on working from the road or in a home office, you will need the right tools.
You should consider investing in the following tools:
- Lightweight and powerful laptop with a webcam and microphone
- Extra keyboard, monitor, and mouse
- Laptop stands and supports
- Noise-canceling headphones or earphones
- Comfortable office chair
- Stationary, paper, printer, etc.
Depending on your business, you also may need to buy office equipment for your employees from somewhere like Lenovo.com too. Or, if they are willing to provide their own equipment, give them a bonus for the same monetary value.
If your business is 100% remote, then you will not have to worry about equipping a proper office. You will be saving a lot of overheads by not having a satellite office.
2. Figure Out How You Will Communicate
As the owner and/or manager, you need to set up foolproof systems for communicating with your staff.
It’s okay if it takes a couple of months to iron out the kinks, but your end goal is to create a communications plan that works for everyone.
Methods of Communication
First, decide on your methods of communication, so every employee has the same software installed and knows how to use it.
Here are some choices to consider:
- Instant messaging (text and voice)
- Video conferencing
- Group documents
The specific programs you use depends on your office programs. Are you a Microsoft Office remote business, a Google remote business, or something else? No matter which you choose, stick to one package.
Microsoft offers Outlook for email, OneDrive for group documents, and Teams for video conferencing.
Google offers Gmail for email, Drive for group documents, and Hangouts for video conferencing.
Slack or WhatsApp are popular programs for instant messaging. Create a group chat for the whole company and encourage your staff to set up private ones. You could also set up a Facebook group for more social interactions too.
Communication Routines and Purposes
Next, decide on what types of workplace communication are suitable for the different methods. Also, decide how often you will communicate either one-on-one, in teams, or as a company.
For example, you could set up the following guidelines:
- Mandatory weekly group meeting = video conferencing
- Department meetings = video conferencing
- Monthly one-on-one meetings = video conferencing
- Casual office chats = instant messaging
- Daily check-ins = instant messaging
- Email = work submissions
- Group documents = ad hoc ideas and non-urgent information
Be very clear about how everyone should communicate for what purpose so there is no confusion. As a remote business manager, you should have regular one-on-ones with every employee.
Create or source tutorials on how to use all the software (and hardware) you want your employees to use and keep them in a group folder. Some may have never used the programs before, and they might feel worried or embarrassed at not knowing how to use something.
3. Set Clear Expectations for Employees
In traditional office settings, you could see John and Karen sitting at their desks. You would feel confident they were working and being productive.
But the expectations when working remotely are different.
Like a traditional business, make sure the following is clear in everyone’s contract when they start working:
- Total working hours per week
- Salary and benefits (including medical)
- Paid time off and sick leave
- Pension benefits
Remote businesses also need to specify response times for emails and instant messages and availability hours, if any.
If your employee has a project-based role, it is better not to stipulate specific hours if you can help it.
Instead, set tasks or a quota to reach every week rather than keeping set hours. For example, if you hire content writers, you could ask them to write a certain number of articles per week.
Although, if an employee has a customer service role, availability hours in a specific time zone are understandable. It is also understandable to ask your employees to be available for weekly mandatory meetings.
4. Create Online Training Materials and Courses
Your employees may be remote, but they are still your employees. You should still care that they feel safe while working and are advancing their careers.
Create online training materials and a handbook for your employees to access at all times. Make sure every new employee has the same training when they start working for your remote business.
You can still arrange for employees to take in-person or online courses and certifications to progress their skills. In your one-on-one meetings, ask for their current location and research local options.
This is one reason why those one-on-one meetings are so important!
5. Plan Casual Remote (or in-Person) Get-Togethers
One of the biggest problems with working remotely is isolation and loneliness. Boost your team’s morale with team-building exercises and remote events.
Hold virtual wine tastings by sending your employees a couple of wine bottles and hiring an expert to lead the session. Virtual murder mystery nights are also fun. There are plenty of virtual games you can play through video conferencing programs.
If you have the resources and your company is small, plan a voluntary in-person weekend retreat once a year. You do not want to schedule many in-person meetings as it undermines the idea of being remote, but once a year is doable.
You could plan an adult summer camp and hire a large cabin with outdoor activities and team exercises. That way, you can have fun team-building sessions during the day and marshmallow roastings at night.
6. Build Trust With Your Employees
Trust and open collaboration are the top priorities when running a remote business. Some managers micromanage and ask their employees to check in with them throughout the day.
Why? Because they do not trust them.
This is why a quota and targets, not a working hours system, can be better for remote businesses. Whether a person is “pulling their weight” is easy to determine.
To help build a trusting relationship with your employees, have an anonymous virtual suggestion box. This will help your employees air any concerns without fear of repercussions.
Building trust is much easier if your employees see you as an approachable person. Make sure to smile on video conferencing calls and not stress about anything that is unimportant. Send GIFs, crack jokes, and talk about the latest true crime documentary on Netflix.
Reward Your Employees
Be sure to go the extra mile by celebrating anyone who is going above and beyond. If any employee has exceeded their quota or got through a difficult period, do not let it go unnoticed. Bonuses, no matter how small, always boost team morale.
Give your employees a spontaneous afternoon off if they have worked extra hard.
Sending swag to your remote workers is also an easy way to show you care and make everyone feel like a community. Print company t-shirts, stationary, and office supplies with the company logo and send them as gifts once a year.
7. Develop a Tolerance for Time Zones and Working Conditions
One of the best parts about remote working is location independence. Some remote businesses do not work if their employees are out of the country or time zone, which is fair enough.
But if it is at all possible, be a great boss and let them work from anywhere. And be willing to tolerate and accept the struggles that come with managing remote employees around the world.
Create a group document where everyone can update their time zone. Be flexible with regular meetings, so the person in Australia is not waking up at 3 am every week.
You might also need to practice tolerance with at-home remote workers. Some of your employees have children and need flexibility. Others might have an elderly mother-in-law that does not understand why she cannot stop by for coffee in the afternoon.
And unless they are video conferencing with clients, is what your employees wear in meetings a big deal?
Be the boss that understands. And be the boss that focuses on results and creating a warm working environment rather than a hostile one. As long as your business is growing, employees are happy, and clients are happy, nothing else matters.
Everything You Need to Know About Running a Remote Business
Running a remote business is not easy. It has a much longer learning curve than the traditional nine to five office-based business. However, that’s because this business model is over 100 years old!
Your efforts will no doubt result in a more loyal, productive, and less stressed workforce.
Did you like this article? Check out our other tech and business posts for more tips and advice!