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Workers Without Borders: Managing the Remote Revolution

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Many managers dread the thought of managing a virtualized workforce out of fear of losing the ability to track employee progress. But that doesn't have to be the case. By establishing core values, like clear and frequent communication, along with leveraging the right tools, it's easy to streamline workflow between on-site and remote employees. Once these norms are in place, you need to maintain company culture across the board.

Here are a few tips for implementing and ensuring a successful work-from-home policy for your company:

Get your remote workers comfortable with your company. Implementing a remote-workforce program allows you to source talent from any location, meaning you have access to the smartest, most capable employees in your field -- not just the ones who live within driving distance of headquarters. Once you've found the perfect addition to your team, consider inviting that person to spend a week at company headquarters. This will allow your new hire to become acquainted with co-workers, attend in-person training meetings and familiarize herself with business processes. This will help ease your new hire toward the end goal of becoming completely engrained in the team.

Related: 3 Ways to Avoid the Loneliness of Working Remotely

Utilize technology to make collaboration easier. Many managers say the biggest challenge with remote workers is maintaining good communication at all times. Setting a clear standard for communication will help teams avoid miscommunication and streamline the workflow process. Start with daily and weekly check-ins so employees can share what they're working on. You can take things even more granular by sharing a list of daily tasks to ensure that the whole team is aware of one another's immediate priorities. Then, coordinate weekly or monthly lunch-and-learns during which team members present projects they're working on, and use videoconferencing to bring in those not located in the office. Co-workers can give feedback on projects and help improve product quality and collaboration.

Here's a few easy-to-implement options to get you started:

  • Videoconferencing tools, like Google Hangout, allow weekly team meetings to be face-to-face, facilitating team bonding -- even via a computer screen.
  • Yammer, a social network for businesses, allows for social collaboration and instant updates when videoconferencing isn't necessary.
  • Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) tools give all employees -- regardless of location -- access to notes, documents and updates in real time.
  • Web-based project management allows employees to see ongoing and new activity and the status of projects.

Fostering company culture. After you've hired and trained your new remote employees, ensuring that your company culture extends beyond the office walls will be the key to keeping them happy and engaged. Schedule quarterly site visits so the whole team can be together. This helps teams collaborate and brainstorm new ideas for ongoing or new projects. Celebrating company successes or milestones is another way to boost office morale. Depending on the situation, bringing in remote employees to headquarters will help facilitate the building of relationships between co-workers, keeping them invested in their work and your company.

Related: 6 Ways to Manage a Virtual Work Force

Expanding your workforce beyond the confines of your local candidate pool opens up the doors for quality hires. But what makes employees happy for the long term (remote or not) is clear, frequent communication about company happenings, a say in the direction at the individual and department level and the opportunity to help guide the course of the company. Keep these core values in mind and you'll create a positive, motivated and cohesive team, regardless of how many of its members work beyond your office walls.

Related: The Great Debate: Should You Let Employees Work From Home?

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