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The best practices to manage a remote workforce—during the pandemic and beyond

The CEO of Owl Labs shares his longtime tips for managing a remote and in-office team.

The best practices to manage a remote workforce—during the pandemic and beyond
[Photo: Michael Tuszynski/Unsplash]
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Looking back on 2020, a diverse number of companies were caught off guard by the need to quickly pivot to remote and hybrid environments. Many leaders found that their supply chains weren’t nearly as flexible as expected and their internal communication was lacking, increasing the difficulty of working outside of the office. However, there have been a plethora of companies pioneering the remote and hybrid workforce movement since the early 2010s.

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For a good part of my career, I’ve managed teams that have had remote members, as well as some that adopted a hyflex (or “hybrid flexible”) work format. Prior to the pandemic, one-third of our team was remote full-time, while another third worked remotely, part-time. From my experiences, I’ve found that there are certain nuances to managing those operating remotely compared to those working the office; it’s more than just seeing and collaborating with your co-workers over screens.

Now, with remote and hybrid work presumably here to stay, I’m sharing my most trusted tips on how to best manage a distributed workforce.

Collaboration-friendly spaces are essential

The technology investments you make are crucial to not only the long-term success of your company, but also the day-to-day operations. These details contribute to how your teams communicate with each other, with their customers, create presentations, and everyone else. Think about how your team can be impacted by hiccups with internal systems and technology.

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Guaranteeing you have the right systems in place isn’t only an operations play—it’s a collaboration and creativity must. By getting your technology right, you bypass a whole array of inconveniences.

Moreover, if your space isn’t set up for remote or hybrid collaboration, it’s wasted space and a missed opportunity for your business. Leaders need to recognize that now is the time to start thinking about outfitting their current office spaces—ensuring that these spaces will be conducive to working with employees not always being in the office. That includes adjusting the conference room setup so it’s optimized for hybrid presentations and internal brainstorms, filled with large whiteboards that can be seen on camera, using video conferencing technology that has clear picture and sound, so those who aren’t present in-person are still in the loop and being heard.

Upgrade existing hiring and onboarding practices

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on your current hiring and onboarding processes. Right now is the time people are evaluating their financial situations and looking at their goals for 2021. With potential candidates on the market and those looking for new opportunities, it’s ripe for a reboot in how your team is approaching the hiring and onboarding process.

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Hiring, onboarding, training, and managing remote employees is different than supporting on-site employees. Leaders need to adapt their old practices, as well as adopt new ones to compliment the current system.

With the “work from anywhere model,” employers need to focus on creating more successful workplace teams, reducing stress-inducing pain points, and promoting wellness for the entire workforce, regardless of their location. During the onboarding process, the new hire needs to be acclimated to the company and its culture, as well as provided with the correct tools and equipment needed to do the job.

Now that location isn’t a factor, candidates have more options in their job search, this isn’t only a benefit to them, but to you. Leaders aren’t confined to a 20-mile radius of where their office is located. The talent pool just got bigger, so there is more opportunity for you to find the perfect hire. Take advantage of it.

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Make time to unplug

In our 2020 State of Remote Work report, we found that employees are spending about 26 more hours a month working than usual (equating to nearly an extra day each week). This can be concerning and could lead to employee burnout in the not so distant future. While we need to be flexible when it comes to working from anywhere, employees need to know they can disconnect from their devices, even when it is easy to log-on from anywhere.

As a leader, lead by example and make sure you are encouraging your team to take the time they need to recharge. This is to say, you should be doing the same and unplugging on occasion. Also, set aside time to connect with team leads, HR, and your team individually to remind them that PTO is there for a reason and policies can be flexible to meet everyone’s specific needs.

With the face of the workforce changing, we need to rethink how we’re leading our employees and setting them up for success in the new normal. Listen to what your teams need and ask them how you can best support them while remote—from investing in a new platform, providing more HR support, or offering workers more flexible hours. As a leader, you have the power to be the driving force in creating a future environment optimal for  remote and hybrid work.

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Frank Weishaupt is the CEO of Owl Labs, a collaborative tech company revolutionizing how organizations of all sizes communicate. Owl Labs is a pioneer in the work-from-anywhere movement, through its work developing the award-winning Meeting Owl Pro and its annual State of Remote Work report.