If you own or work for a business in Hawaii and are tasked with either managing or establishing a remote team, you are not alone.
According to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) of Hawaii, almost 200,000 (about 42.4%) private sector payroll employees were working remotely as of August 31, 2021, including 20,636 working for companies in Hawaii from out-of-state. Across the United States, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from about 9 million people (5.7%) to 27.6 million (17.9%) between 2019 and 2021.
While the majority of the workforce is back in office, this work-from-home trend does not appear to be slowing down. Today, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home. The same study showed that 28.2% work a hybrid model — where workers split their time between in-office and remote work. According to a recent survey from Bankrate, 64% of full-time workers would prefer to work remotely, while 68% prefer hybrid work.
Managing a remote workforce comes with its share of benefits and unique challenges. It’s essential that you’re aware of them so you can set your employees and company up for success.
This article explores the benefits of managing remote teams. It also offers the best practices for working from home to improve employee engagement and the health of your business.
Benefits of Managing Remote Workers
The benefits of managing a remote workforce have been known since at least 2013, when a Stanford study concluded that many remote workers were consistently more productive than their in-office counterparts. This same study found that remote employees were more satisfied in their roles, leading to better work performance and lower turnover rates.
In addition to an increase in productivity, managing remote workers offers other benefits to a company’s bottom line.
#1. Reduced Operating Costs
You don’t have to maintain full-time office space for remote workers. Even if you manage a hybrid workforce, you’ll need less space to accommodate your teams, especially if in-office days are staggered among your staff. Along with saving on outlays for office space rent, you’ll save on utility bills, insurance costs, office supplies, and other day-to-day overhead expenses.
#2. Increased Hiring Options
When you manage a remote workforce, your hiring options are no longer subject to tight geographical restrictions. Instead of a pool of candidates within commuting distance of your office, you can expand your hiring reach as wide as you’d like — regionally, nationally, or even internationally. The larger your talent pool, the more likely it is to find the perfect hire for each position.
#3. Higher Employee Retention
Being able to work remotely is high on many workers’ “must-have” lists. Providing that option means that a remote employee will be more likely to stay in a job that accommodates this preference. In addition, if the employee has to move for family or other personal reasons, they won’t have to search for a new job near their new location. They can just pack up their home office and work out of their new place without missing a beat.
#4. Better Overall Morale
Morale-killers — like office gossip, work cliques, and rumor mills — are significantly reduced in a remote work environment. Managers know that keeping morale up goes a long way in productivity and retention.
5 Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams
Managing a fully remote or hybrid team requires planning and dedication. Whether you are transitioning from managing an in-office team to a remote team, are looking to develop remote work policies, or want to improve your remote work strategy, the following provides some tried and true remote work best practices.
These five best practices for working remotely are tips and tools to keep your team engaged, productive, and happy.
#1. Err on the Side of Overcommunication
Nothing builds better trust in teams than ongoing communication. Not only does a lot of communication help everyone stay on the same page, but it also helps everyone to connect on both business and personal levels.
One of the drawbacks of working remotely is that it's harder to develop relationships with others in the organization.
Remote team members don’t have the convenience of sticking their heads into their boss’ office to seek information or support. The remote group never gathers in the conference room for morning roundtables, preferably with that one colleague you can always count on to bring the donuts. Remote workers don’t take coffee breaks together, invite each other to lunch, or grab drinks after work as on-site workers can. So it’s essential to find ways to foster camaraderie and communications that are fluid as well as structured.
Many managers supervising remote workers maintain a virtual open door policy, using an online communication messaging app like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Good managers also keep their remote teams engaged by adopting these communications best practices for managing remote teams:
- Scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins with team members to help them stay on track
- Scheduling regular team meetings via video conference so team members feel that they are working in tandem
- Utilizing project management software that encourages collaboration while supervising team projects and deliverables
- Establishing a consistent feedback loop where each team member is invited to provide feedback to their supervisor without fear of retribution and where each team leader provides performance and other vital feedback to each employee regularly
However you choose to foster communications, do your best to ensure every remote employee feels supported, seen, and heard.
#2. Make Remote Worker Onboarding Strategic and Seamless
You and your company only get one chance to make a first impression. That first impression of what it will be like working with your company begins with the onboarding process.
In fact, proper onboarding is one of the most critical work-from-home best practices your company can adopt.
A strong onboarding program signals to new staff that they are a vital part of the team and makes them feel respected and appreciated.
During the Great Resignation of 2021, 57% of employees who quit their jobs cited feeling disrespected at work as a reason behind their decision to leave. The cost of replacing an employee far outweighs the cost of proper onboarding, so putting resources into making sure your new employee feels welcomed is a sound business decision. Many companies even look to outside agencies to ensure seamless onboarding for their remote employees.
The goal of onboarding is to set each employee up for success by offering them the tools and support they need from day one. Ways to accomplish this remote workforce strategy include:
- Introduce the new hire to company management and team members. Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking for new employees, particularly those whose jobs start in a remote setting. You want the new hire to feel included from their first day, so beginning that first week out with “welcome aboard” meetings will go a long way in helping them feel at home. Set up virtual welcome meetings with the managers and team members they will be working with. If you conduct company-side meetings, be sure to introduce the new hire and encourage other employees to send welcoming messages and emails.
- Set up their home office before their first day on the job. Depending on the position the new hire will be assuming, chances are the company will be providing equipment, setting them up with software, and providing other work-from-home tools they will need to perform their duties. Show them their value by having all these tools ready and providing IT or clerical assistance to set them up. If your company offers a stipend for home offices, make sure they have it in advance of their first day of work so they can purchase what they need to feel organized and ready for work.
Get them signed up for benefits on or before day one. Virtual workers can’t just go to HR to fill out all those payroll, health insurance, and 401K forms or grab a copy of the company handbook. Be sure you have a system in place to provide them with online access to all the forms and materials they need during onboarding and have someone from human resources available to assist them.
#3. Don't Skimp on Professional Development Opportunities for Remote Workers
Sometimes professional development gets put on the back burner when it comes to remote team management. This is especially the case when some team members are on-site and others are hybrid or remote. On-site and hybrid workers end up with greater visibility to higher-ups, which could produce a bias regarding equitable access to development opportunities and/or promotions.
Professional development is a pathway to longevity in employment. The more growth and promotion opportunities afforded a team member, the more engaged they are. And engaged employees feel empowered and are more motivated to take on greater responsibilities. The key is to make conscious and concerted efforts to allow remote employees to be all they can be. Ways to accomplish these best practices to working remotely include:
- Learn each employee’s career goals and aspirations. The only way to learn about your team members’ goals and aspirations is to ask them. Think of yourself as more than just a supervisor or a boss. Think of yourself as a coach. Then use your one-on-one interactions with each employee to learn about their short and long-term plans. As their coach, help them further fine-tune and develop those plans with your guidance.
- Provide mentorship opportunities. One of the best ways to develop talent is through mentorship. Whether you create a formal mentorship program that pairs seasoned employees and managers with early career staff or you provide opportunities for senior and junior employees to come together on their own during team-building meetings, creating a mentorship culture is a great way to engage your remote workforce. Additionally, this will help them develop connections beyond day-to-day work assignments.
- Offer access to training. Remote team members often get the short end of the stick when it comes to skills training. Don’t let this be the case with your off-site team. Consider adopting one or more of these training tips:
- Create a comprehensive online knowledge base for your team that contains documentation of best practices, learning resources such as recordings of past training sessions, links to helpful external resources, and any other information that employees can access on-demand
- Offer free subscriptions or tuition to digital resources such as industry publications and webinars
- Schedule real-time virtual get-togethers like lunch and learns. Consider sending everyone on the team e-gift cards through a delivery service like DoorDash or GrubHub for food that day
- Offer a training stipend so each team member can take a class or attend a conference to further explore their interests
- When offering in-house training to on-site employees, always include the option for every team member to attend either the session via video or record it for later viewing
- Arrange for company gatherings. If time and budget allow, think about bringing the team — or the entire company — together every so often for professional networking, social interaction, and training. Options for this gathering include:
- Holding quarterly or annual firm-wide retreats
- Bringing the team together to attend an industry conference
- Inviting employees who are within easy driving distance from each other to arrange lunch gatherings underwritten by the company
#4. Be Cognizant of Employee Time Zones
One of the advantages of offering remote opportunities is being able to recruit from a wider pool of candidates. But that could mean that your team members live and work in different time zones. While it might be convenient for you to require everyone to keep to one set of work hours, that isn’t realistic for workers who also have lives to maintain outside work.
As the manager of a remote workforce in different time zones, try to refrain from messaging employees in their off-hours, especially late at night. Also, try not to schedule group meetings that are too early or too late for team members. If you have many employees working out of different time zones, consider equipping everyone’s computers with a time zone app or extension.
Of course, if your workforce is international and you need the team to interact in real-time, then be upfront with remote workers before inviting them to sign on to your team.
#5. Encourage Your Team to Adopt Healthy Habits
Working remotely can take a toll on your team’s health. While rolling out of bed and jumping on a computer wearing pajamas might be nirvana to some people, to others, it is a recipe for a real health disaster.
It’s easy for remote workers to fall into destructive habits like becoming too sedentary, working around the clock, and social isolation. A remote worker can quickly burn out without work-day structure, regular physical activity, periodic work breaks, and in-person social interactions.
As the manager of a remote workforce, encourage your employees to take care of their physical and emotional health. Make sure your team is aware of the health resources offered by your company, including access to wellness programs like discounted gym memberships, mental health counseling, and employee assistance programs (EAPs). Encourage employees to take time off, especially if they are ill or need some time out of their home offices. Some remote-oriented companies, aware of the high incidences of remote employee burnout, require employees to take all their paid vacation days.
Knowing and implementing these remote work best practices will create an environment where your team feels valued and empowered to do their best work. It’s a win-win for your employees and the business.
How ProService Can Help You Adopt Remote Working Best Practices for Your Hawaii-Based Company
If you own or operate a small business in Hawaii with a remote or partially-remote workforce, you know how difficult it can be to keep up with all of the human resources demands while maintaining a remote workplace.
You want to create an environment where remote employees feel valued by offering them the same opportunities for training and advancement as on-site employees.
Additionally, you recognize that encouraging employees to embrace a healthy work-life balance is a win-win for you and your team. You’re aware that companies that connect and engage with their remote staff members will have higher retention rates. The happier your employees are, the more likely they want to stick with you.
Freeing yourself and your staff from the need to perform all of the human resources functions necessary to keep your business running is one of the best business moves you can make. As Hawaii’s local full-service HR services provider, ProService is your best choice in small business HR outsourcing companies.
ProService can work with you to design programs that attract and retain a top-notch remote workforce by:
- Helping you develop tailored employment policies, procedures, and opportunities that attract the best candidates
- Taking charge of administering payroll for remote employees residing anywhere in the US
- Offering your US-based remote employees competitive benefits packages that include group health insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan, group life insurance, and flexible spending accounts
In addition, ProService will help you protect your business by assisting you with the following:
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) to protect your business from employment-related claims
- Procuring workers' comp coverage in the 46 states that allow private insurers to offer coverage
Our staff is well-versed in every aspect of developing and maintaining a competitive, fully compliant, and robust HR system that meets the needs of your small Hawaii-based business.
Let ProService take the burdens of running a human resources department off your plate so you and your team can focus on what matters most — running and growing your business.