Small Business Experts Tell Us Their Mistakes and New Goals for Managing Their Remote Teams

The year 2020 has been full of learning curves. You’ve had to learn how to measure six feet, pick which song to sing when you wash your hands, and coordinate your mask to your outfit.

For several companies, it has also meant learning how to navigate remote work. As with any new working condition, some have made mistakes, and others have made strides in their workflow.

Moving into 2021, we asked experts how they managed their remote workforce — what worked, what didn’t, and what they hope to do next year. 

2020 will likely change the way we work permanently, so read on to learn more about how to: 

  • Improve communication with your employees
  • Set up processes
  • Find tools to improve workflow 
  • Build teamwork
  • Check in on your employees’ well-being 

Structure Communication With Your Employees

Communication is often the most significant concern with remote work. When employees aren’t in the same work area, it’s easy for information to get lost. 

Setting clear goals for communication could be the essential step to manage your remote team. Provide plenty of avenues for communication, and establish a structure for when it’s best to chat, text, email, or call. 

Entrepreneur Miles Beckler says one of the biggest lessons he’s learned for managing his team across four continents is to use multiple communication methods instead of just one platform. 

“In the beginning, there was a lack of structure which made it difficult to delegate, relay information, and even arrange meetings. There needs to be fit-for-purpose personal channels. Don’t fall into the trap of creating a free-for-all channel and nothing else.”

Be Clear With Processes and Create Resources

Along with how you communicate, managers need to be clear on guidelines and processes for assignments. 

Founder and CEO of tree planting organization Click A Tree, Chris Kaiser, suggests being clear about processes and deadlines. Kaiser says he plans to expand resources for his team.

“We will start improving our internal online learning library, detail things out, and structure them better to make it even easier to find how-to-guides, templates, schedules, etc.”

Resources can also help with training and onboarding. 

Dan Bailey, president of lawn service finder WikiLawn, says his company had a data breach early into lockdown. It resulted from improper security preparation for their employees, and Bailey says they will now implement new training processes. 

“Our plan is to develop a comprehensive internet and networking safety program for our employees. Something we can use when onboarding and revisit every year.”

Use Tools to Improve Workflow  

Several resources make remote work smoother. Our experts cited many of the same applications helped their companies, including: 

As more tools become available, Natalia Cieslak, head of member growth at Appjobs, has found success with the online office application Teemyco

“It’s a virtual office where we are able to work in the same space, see how people are moving between rooms and who’s having meetings with whom. You can even ping people for a coffee in the virtual kitchen. It’s been very fun, and I can see that the teams appreciate feeling closer even if it’s [virtual].”

Make Time for Team Building

Camaraderie and teamwork are essential factors of an office environment. It can be hard to build them remotely, but it’s possible with effort and creativity. 

CEO of Translation Equipment HQ, Will Ward, says his company made the mistake of not doing enough team-building activities and plans to correct that in 2021. 

“Frequently organize fun meeting sessions filled with games. Send everyone goodies and host virtual parties. These are activities that will build synergy.”

Also, Calloway Cook, president of supplement company Illuminate Labs, says he wants to create more opportunities for collaboration and problem-solving. 

“One way I plan to achieve this in 2021 is to explain different small challenges that the business is struggling with and allow all team members to strategize on how to solve them. This sort of targeted back-and-forth brainstorming session should be a lot more engaging than a standard, open-ended team meeting where everyone just says whatever’s on their mind.”

Manage Your Employees’ Well-Being and Plan for the Future

Remote work can disrupt boundaries between work and home life. If your commute is from your bed to your desk, it can be hard to get to work or unplug after the day is over. This can lead to burnout from your employees and new phenomena like Zoom fatigue.

Owner of Marygrove Awnings, Mike Falahee, says when he noticed employees working late into the night, he encouraged them to take care of themselves.

“When other management was noticing emails coming in at 2 a.m., we knew that we must help the employees draw a line between work, and home. 

“Outline that you care about their well being, just want them to create a distraction-free environment, and work normal hours as they would in the office. This will let them know that they are valuable, and keep them from burning out.”

In 2020, we all learned to be more flexible, and that lesson translates to working hours too. CEO and co-founder of InstantSearch+, Zohar Gilad, says letting employees create their schedule has improved their work. 

“You can’t just expect [employees] to sit at their computer for eight hours and do good work. We gave our employees some space to breathe (mid-day breaks, goal-oriented assignments), and the overall quality of our work is much higher.”

Remote work has helped people stay safe in 2020. Many companies found it was a successful way to run their business and plan to continue it into the future. 

Focus on communication and lay out processes for tasks to help with efficiency and workflow. Find resources to solve any problems and to make remote work manageable. And remember to check on your team’s wellbeing and instill team-building activities.

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Desiree Johnson
Desiree Johnson | Content Specialist
Desiree Johnson is a Content Specialist at Bluehost where she writes helpful guides and articles, teaches webinars and assists with other marketing and WordPress community work.

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