As we all come to grips with the impact and reality of our current situation, we first want to say that our hearts go out to small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. With the recent two-week home order in Atlanta, and other mandates across the country, our businesses are forced to operate remotely.

At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we have been managing a remote workforce for more than five years and wanted to share some of the insights we’ve learned over that time. It’s critical to get your virtual strategy right the first time – doing well can have great benefits and long-term business growth, while a poor job can lead to lack of productivity and employees becoming islands.

As you face this potential new challenge, here are four practical tips to managing a remote workforce, and, of course, SBS is here every step of the way to answer any questions or discuss solutions for your business.

  1. Set a schedule. Some may disagree with me, but if there is not some expectation set for when your staff should work, things can go south. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make exceptions or put together custom schedules for those that have special needs, such as children being in the home. But, the key is that there should be a clear expectation as to when your staff should be working. This will encourage a clean break between work and personal life, which will foster work/life harmony and keep staff from getting burned out.
  2. Meet regularly. I cannot emphasize this enough. In order to keep a strong and connected culture, you must have regular team meetings. Thankfully, there are some wonderful tools out there for virtual meetings, such as GoToMeeting and Zoom. Make it a requirement to turn cameras on, interact, and make meetings fun and informative. All this will help keep your team together and provide a personal touch that is often lost when working remotely.
  3. Overcommunicate. Because the primary way of communicating with a remote workforce is through writing (at least in our case), it’s vital that you overcommunicate when sending texts, emails or other written communication. Read and reread your messages BEFORE you send them to ensure they contain all the pertinent details. Teach your team to do so as well. Also, clearly document your policies and procedures so there is no doubt what guidelines your staff needs to follow.
  4. Trust but verify. There is an old myth that says, “If I can’t see my staff, I can’t manage them.” This simply is not true. People want to be trusted. One of the most freeing things you could potentially do for your staff is letting them know that you are proud of them and that you trust that even though you cannot see them, they will act in the best interest of the company.Be sure to also communicate that this goes both ways – you also expect for them to trust that you have their best interests in mind. This being said, blind faith is never wise. Periodically pull time reports and regularly check in on the status of your projects as a way of holding your staff accountable to your trust agreement. If there seems to be a violation, investigate to see if there were factors outside of the employees’ control that made it seem as if they were not operating with your company’s best interests in mind. If there was a violation of trust, remind the employee of your agreement with them. If the employee continues to break trust, you must let them go.

Moving Forward to Meet the Challenges

These are certainly difficult times, but as business owners, we know that we have to constantly adapt in order to grow. While this new challenge may be our toughest yet, we feel that following these remote workforce tips will set you on a path to survive and grow. And, hopefully when all this passes by and we return to our normal routines, you’ll be in a position to capitalize off your remote workforce strategies.

If you have any questions, or are ready to tackle managing remote staff, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We pray that you all stay safe and healthy.