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How to manage a remote workforce

Remote work is becoming the norm for companies globally, especially in the wake of Coronavirus. Learn how to get the most out of remote workers
Feb 14, 2020 • 6 minute read
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Learn how to get maximum productivity out of your remote workforce

The Coronavirus is already changing the paradigm for how companies work, with organizations forced to adapt to a remote workforce as authorities try to contain the spread of the virus. But this means companies have to adapt quickly to learn new ways to manage.
There's no doubt that, even in the absence of Coronavirus, the world is already shifting towards a remote working model. According to a recent study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005.
But while employees may enjoy the flexibility of remote work, it presents a new challenge for managers. This is especially true as workers shift from being employed by companies to working as independent contractors and freelancers. Fortunately for managers, there are frameworks that can help make the most of a remote workforce.

Benefits of a remote workforce

If you're not sold on using a remote workforce, it's worth having a look at some of the tangible benefits.

Increased productivity

Research has shown a massive correlation between remote work and increased productivity. This may seem counterintuitive to some managers, as the prevailing fear seems to be that the lack of supervision will lead to a decline in productivity, but the statistics show the opposite.
A 2015 study by Chinese call center CTrip found that allowing employees to work from home resulted in a 15% increase in productivity. This isn't surprising, considering an Owl Labs survey found people who work from home at least once per week are 24% more likely to be happy and productive. Add into this the fact that remote workers save an average of 11 days per year by not having to commute (11 days that can be spent on productive tasks), and the flexibility afforded to employees definitely seems to pay dividends when it comes to the quality of the work produced.

Risk avoidance

Having a remote workforce saves you from a number of imminent risks. Whether it is something dangerous like the Coronavirus or a natural disaster, having a remote workforce assures that the workflow keeps moving forward and your risk is minimized when it comes to the completion of tasks.

Cost savings

By having a remote workforce, you can save thousands of dollars in office rent and other expenditures by scaling downwards and retaining only mandatory expenses. This can be a great way to save a lot of essential expenses. In fact, a 2015 study (The State of Telecommuting) found that telecommuting saved employers $44 billion annually.

Access to skills

This definitely correlates to the previous point of lower cost. By having the ability to accommodate remote employees, you can easily hire talented individuals, regardless of their proximity to your head office. Embracing remote work opens up access to a global talent pool.

Paying for productivity rather than clocking hours

In the case of freelance remote workers, employers only pay for the actual work performed rather than paying a base salary that's not necessarily correlated to productivity.
However, despite all the benefits to remote work, it requires a mental shift for managers, and means they have to embrace some new management tactics.

Effectively managing a remote workforce

Inefficient implementation of a remote work model can be detrimental to your business. Inefficient management can lead to the following issues.
Decreased productivity
Lack of accountability
Unsynchronized workflow
Lack of team bonding
Ineffective organizational hierarchy
To ensure that your company doesn't suffer from these issues, make sure you implement the following tactics.

Provide employees with the right tools

Thanks to the advancements made in software, management is now easier than ever. To ensure that your remote employees are creating effective work. Make sure that they access all the right tools and resources to effectively work in a team environment. This includes proper communication channels, collaboration tools and workflow tracking mechanisms. Having access to the right tools will make sure your team is in constant communication and taking the right steps to complete their targets.
If you're using a freelance remote workforce, make sure the platform you're using allows you to collaborate and communicate effectively. Make sure there are time tracking tools available for freelancers, and that you can easily message and share files.

Proper supervision

For any work environment to be productive, having proper supervision is mandatory. Just because your employees are not physically there doesn't mean that you're free from the role of supervising your team. Make sure that you put equal effort into establishing proper supervision while tracking the progress of your team.
For a freelance workforce, supervision is slightly different. Rather than direct oversight, supervision should be based on deliverables. Break your project into a series of deliverables with associated payments and clear deadlines. On the Freelancer platform, you can do this by creating Milestone Payments. Break a project up into separate Milestone Payments, with each Milestone associated with a deliverable.

Promote your company’s culture

People show up to work every day and deliver based on the example that is set in front of them. Make sure that your company has a solid culture based on proper values so that your employees can follow them to be productive and continue working for your company. The right culture will ensure that people are striving to be better every single day.
Freelancers may not work for your company, but if they're doing projects for your company, you should give them the context of your corporate culture. Make sure they understand the values and goals of your company. This helps them to align their work with your business objectives.

Have a proper onboarding process

Having a defined onboarding process can be a major game-changer for your employees. It can really help them get acquainted with their workflow and get adapted to the work cycles. This can be a great tool to boost productivity. It can also provide new team members to get a chance to familiarize themselves with the tools they're going to be using as part of your company.
For freelancers, onboarding consists of writing a clear project brief, and then clearly communicating your expectations. Be clear about the timeline, the concrete deliverables and the overall objective of the project. Once again, this is why giving the freelancer context about your company's goals and values can be immensely helpful.

Implement systematic accountability

Having accountability is really important to ensure that your employees value results. It also helps ensure that your team is not wasting time instead of working. Accountability is perfect when paired with incentives that foster growth and reward great results. This can prove to be a great motivating factor for employees due to the results being associated with increased rewards.
On the Freelancer platform, Milestone Payments and the review system serve as an accountability measure. Project holders are the only ones who can create and release Milestone Payments, and they only release the payments once they're 100% satisfied with the freelancer's work. Moreover, reviews provide a permanent record of a freelancer's performance, and hold them accountable to delivering the end result they've promised.

Treat employees with respect

Remote work can cause anxiety for some employees who worry that they're not as valued as their in-office counterparts, or that there are lingering doubts about their output. It's important to reiterate the value remote workers add to your organization, and ensure that your employees feel rewarded and recognized for their efforts. When it comes to employee management, respect and recognition go a long way.
Though freelance workers aren't employees, it's also important to treat them with respect and communicate the value they add to your organization. The more personally invested they feel in your project and your business' goals, the better work they'll deliver.

The benefit of using freelancers for your remote workforce

Integrating remote work into your company can be a difficult transition. Some employees may not be accustomed to the model, and there's going to be a period of adjustment and some growing pains.
One major benefit of using freelancers to scale your company is that you get all the benefits of a remote workforce without the period of adjustment. Freelancers are already experienced with remote work, and understand how to communicate, collaborate and remain productive without in-person supervision.
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