Technology makes it easier to manage staff in multiple locations, but that doesn't mean it's a set-and-forget affair. Here are some tips to make the process easier.
Lifehacker's Simplifying Small Business series of tips is presented by Vodafone.
Schedule regular meetings to discuss issues
The trickiest part of remote working isn't the technology you need -- it's the processes involved. Remote staff can easily feel disconnected from what's happening in the main business. While the ability to stay in touch via phone, chat apps, text and video calls can ease that burden, you have to make sure that contact is maintained regularly.
As a manager, schedule regular meetings with remote staff, and honour those commitments -- don't make them the first thing you dump when your calendar starts becoming crowded. That ensures that everyone stays up-to-date and any issues that arise can be dealt with promptly.
Have backup options for connectivity
Remote staff will be highly reliant on their internet connection, so make sure there's an additional option if the main connection experiences any problems. That won't always be under your control -- any damage to the cabling between your business premises and the nearest exchange can result in you being cut off, as can problems at the exchange itself.
A prepaid mobile broadband account is one easy option that doesn't cost a lot to set up. If your staff regularly travel, then setting up mobile broadband makes sense, and gives you an option for use when on the road, as well as in the office in cases of emergency.
Choose the right software approach
How you allow remote staff to access systems will depend on your needs. If you're using software-as-a-service options such as Salesforce.com or hosted email, then remote work is easy to manage; staff will have the same basic login options no matter where they are located. This also means your management approach can be centralised. To provide support for remote staff, check out our selection of the best remote desktop tools. For more complex software scenarios, consider using virtualised desktops, which also allow you to centralise management.
Promote 'asynchronous' work
You don't always have to be connected to work effectively remotely -- you can work in connected "bursts" and then go offline to deal with larger projects. As the winner of our recent IT Survivor challenge explains, this "asynchronous" approach has big benefits:
"Asynchronous" communication channels which let you respond in your own time (like email or shared documents) are the way to go for remote working: they give the impression you're always available while letting you work in your most productive way. When you enable this sort of flexible communication, you start to get really powerful collaborative outcomes no matter what industry you're working in.
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