Scaling Your Business By Going Remote
According to Forbes, by the end of this decade between one-third and one-half of all employees in the United States will work remotely. Younger workers are accustomed to using technology to do business without the need for an office. The smart business owner realizes that remote teams are a cost-effective way to grow a business, if you can keep your team connected.
Before talking about technology, it is important to look at procedure. Research published in the periodical Advanced Materials Research studied R&D teams in small- and medium-sized manufacturing companies. What they found was that, from a technological standpoint, even highly scientific organizations were capable of conducting R&D tasks with a remote and geographically dispersed team but that the companies did not have the infrastructure to utilize the technology. If you want to take advantage of all of the perks of remote teams you will need to create a set of remote accessibility guidelines for your office.
With the advent of remote instruction at the college level, you can look to universities for examples of remote team policies. Columbia College has a concise agreement for IT data usage across remote campuses. Since information sharing is the most important aspect of a remote team, the IT agreement defines the parameters of data usage, backups and privileges. Their procedures clearly outline the necessary permissions for information access and sharing.
Not all technology is the same and not every member needs the same tech. Starting with connectivity, people that are home-based will need high-speed, reliable internet and those that are more mobile should get satellite telephones. There is a time component to having a geographically dispersed team. One person may be attending a meeting in the middle of the night while another will be travelling through remote fields heading to the next appointment. Without being able to connect them all, your team will break down.
With good connectivity, creating a remote presence in the office is easy with the right technology. Companies like Google and the Mayo Clinic are using mobile remote presence (MRP) robots to give mobility to remote team members. Imagine attaching a tablet to a remote-controlled robot. The tablet allows video chat and the chassis gives the controller the ability to move about without bothering other team members. This tech is not as futuristic as it may sound, coming in at a purchase price less than $3,000.
Plan to Chat
Research shows that remote team members are very social, despite the distance and digital conduit. They use technology as a way of finding their personal rhythm, balancing work, life and distance. Where your in-house staff wants short, poignant meetings, the remote worker needs some extra time to brainstorm, talk and touch bases with the normal office social ecology. As a business executive, you want to foster this level of communication because your remote team is also your field agents. They are the ones that need to portray the strengths of the organization as well as bring best practices back to the company. There is nothing fancy needed to keep your team happy. Use your cellphone, texts, and social media to stay engaged with your remote teammates.
Does your team include remote employees? How do you stay connected and cohesive? Let us know in the comments below.