The lockdown in many cities that occurred during March 2020 is an unprecedented event for small and large businesses alike. If you are looking for the best software and strategies to manage small business remote employees, you’re in the right place
All non-essential businesses across the United States have instantly become open to the idea of hiring remote workers to keep money coming in, many for the first time. However, working remotely is not something new, small businesses have been using tech and digital productivity strategies for longer than 10 years. In fact, 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028 and the field has seen 44% growth in the last 5 years.
Using tech and these strategies, many small business’ have know-how to manage remote employees. They have increased employee output, decreased operating costs, saved on office rent, and increased many workers salaries in the process. While all this is possible, maintaining a relationship with your remote employees is vital to successful management and requires you to take a different approach.
As we dive into how to effectively manage a remote team, lockdown or otherwise, you will learn the skills to keep your business running during a lockdown (as long as the internet is up). Future proof your business and allow virtually unlimited expansion with employees all over the world.
Best Tech To Manage Remote Employees For Small Business
When it comes to how to manage small business remote workers, instant messengers are incredibly important for communication. The software removes all the information lost in back and forth emails by providing a completely steam-lined interface. Slack looks very good and is very easy to use and learn.
Slack is specifically tailored and loaded with features that streamline communication. This will optimize the productivity of your remote employees. For example, Slack allows all kinds of customization from groups, permissions, names, pictures, and more. No more days of crawling through 2 week old email threads to find important lost information.
You can create groups for management, another for HR, etc. Slack also allows you to “@” people in chats, giving them a notification to their phone and computer. In addition, Slack allows on demand video calls. It’s great for short meetings one on one with employees. However, there are better options for video meetings that we will discuss below.
Zoom specializes in connecting you with your team over video and audio chat. They provide an all inclusive audio and video conferencing app that is accessible on your computer, phone, and tablet. Using Zoom along with messaging apps easily coordinates your employees into a video conference. It’s easy to add, remove, and edit who had permissions on the fly with their easy to use software.
Zoom has a long list of features including full recording and transcripts of meetings, HD audio and video, multiple screen sharing from different employees in the same call, and google calendar synchronization. All these features help to streamline meetings and make communication a breeze. Even if you don’t have remote workers, conducting meetings online removes the hassle of getting everyone together in one place.
In short, Zoom is the best and easiest to use video conferencing software on the market for large and small businesses with remote workers.
Evernote is a note taking app that easily allows your remote employees to, organize, share, and access notes anywhere with anyone. Even when they are working from home, your remote employee’s notes can appear right in front of you as they type.
The features provided by Evernote, like group documents for collaboration between specific teams, sharing to allow other employees access, templates, pdf & doc search, as well as note synchronization across all devices will incredibly increase your employees work output.
Evernote allows you to easily have a closed loop of notes with all your employees in one system. The G Suite also offers some similar features with google docs, but it is nowhere near as useful as Evernote.
The full G-Suite offers a comprehensive list of features that is equipped to help any small business with remote workers.
G Suite bundles video meetings, custom email @’s, docs, sheets, chat, and more. It offers a little bit of everything from Evernote, Slack, Trello, and Zoom. If you want a great all in one solution, the G Suite is for you.
While they offer all of these features, many are available for free for any google user. In addition, the paid options that they do have are very limited compared to the above mentioned software. For example, their mobile apps are slower, less streamlined, and harder to integrate with other apps in my experience.
If you want a minimalist all in one video, note, and text for your company then G Suite is perfect. If you want more usability in your new programs, then apps like Slack + Evernote + Zoom will give you the same basic features with much more customization and integration. How you manage your remote employees and which software you use is ultimately up to you.
The all in one scheduling app that allows tasks and deadline progress to be seen visually by your remote workers.
It is stacked with features for small businesses to increase productivity like priorities, messages, reminders, progress notifications, timelines and much more. Asana can let your employees know what percentage of a job they have completed and how behind/ahead they are.
In addition, Asana has been developed to easily work on computers, phones, and tablets. You can show your employees what they need to get done and when they need to get it done. Your remote workers can then edit progress and edit/check completed tasks for you to see.
Like the other apps, you can seamlessly integrate Asana with email, slack, and many other apps. If you have large projects with many moving parts, Asana is great for keeping your remote employees on task.
This app is a productivity tool that easily shows your remote workers what’s on the horizon for your small business visually. Trello uses “cards” that act as virtual sticky notes that can be edited and moved around.
It works great to visually layout all tasks utilizing features like voting, image integration, fully modular cards, color coordination, due dates, and reference cards. Trello also allows users to customize their own boards which makes the software more fun and personalized for remote employees.
Small businesses will greatly benefit if they currently have remote workers. Trello is fantastic at boosting productivity and laying out tasks visually. Communication is one of the more important parts in managing employees off site.
All of these apps will undoubtedly increase workflow and employee output when working remotely or from home. While I do recommend all these programs, not all businesses need everything. Check them all out and decide what combination of tech apps you would find most useful to your employees and your business.
Best Strategies For Managing A Small Remote Team
Set Clear Goals and Tasks with Deadlines
Setting goals is one of, if not, THE best strategy to keep a remote team on task. How would your remote workers know if they are behind or ahead if they do not have goals to meet? Using the scheduling tools above like Trello or Asana will effectively display deadlines and goals that you create for an employee. The magic of these apps is setting daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines that can show an employee exactly what they are responsible for. Your team is able to see what needs to get done and bring the confusion between you and your team down while productivity goes up.
Basically, they can know what to do for the next hour, week, and month ahead of time. A great example of productivity increasing is Stance Socks. Stance is a California based company that has slowly turned socks into an accessory. They accomplished this through their marketing, which is focused heavily on creative work. They have stated “we’ve been able to cut our production time by 50% because we receive all of the information we need to kick off work at the beginning” after implementing Asana.
This is just one of many examples of how setting goals and using easy to view scheduling apps can increase your output and overall profits. Not only is it good for you, it really takes a lot of stress off employees. Having super confusing email threads with unclear goals/tasks creates stress and lowers morale in your entire remote workforce. Constantly messaging back and forth before even starting on a task can significantly throw off the accuracy, quality, and timeline of a project.
Communicate Thoroughly and Be Proactive
Communication is a huge issue even in small businesses during normal times across America. According to the statistics, 57% of employees report not being given clear directions and 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with the employees in general. Clear and precise communication is pivotal in a regular office environment and even more important when managing remote workers in small business.
Streamlining your communication to be quick and clear is essential for communication between remote employees. Using apps like Slack will eliminate the need for email or text threads. In addition, most instant messaging apps allow access across phones, phones, computers, and tablets. Employees ask any questions they have instantly to get clarification. This increases productivity of your employees and takes stress off of you.
This isn’t only to take headache out of you and your remote employees day, effectively communicating will drastically increase their output. Korey of the booming online luggage company “Away” says that they could “take a project that could have taken a month to come to a decision on, and we come to that decision in a day” after integrating slack into their daily workflow. Another talking point for Away about Slack is the seamless layout and connections make it easy for a “team of graphic, web, and product designers [to] gather in Slack to give each other rapid feedback”.
Listening to changing customer wants is also a very important factor in communication. Almost any messaging app can be integrated directly into your small business Twitter, Instagram, etc. This will allow you to have customer feedback and direct messages strategically recorded all in one messaging app. This makes it easy to adapt to what your customers want and clearly assign the tasks needed.
This feedback can instantly be shared with you and all your employees who are working on a project. Overall, communicating effectively is a great way to manage a team of remote workers. It will increase morale and productivity while also keeping everyone in the loop.
In Summary: Managing Remote Employees at a Small Business Doesn’t Have to be Difficult
If there is one thing I would like you to remember from this article is technology is a small business’ best friend, use it. Technology has bridged the gap between remote and regular workers to provide no noticeable difference in work output with much higher output of happiness and freedom! How you use this technology is up to you, but the main thing you want to be clear on is GOALS and CLEAR COMMUNICATION.
Setting goals is vital in providing your employees with projects and tracking their progress overtime. Using interactive boards & calendars while collaborating with your remote employees will give your team somewhat of a roadmap. Managing remote workers leads to a lot of new problems for small business. Most of the time, clear and constant communication will solve these problems. Keeping messages all together on one program removed the need of sorting through email, text, and meeting notes for answers.
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