Today, more and more companies are beginning to recognize the benefits that come from having a remote or partially remote workforce.

According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, roughly 39 percent of companies allow some employees to work remotely, with companies like like Automattic and Mozilla functioning as “distributed companies” and allowing most off their workers to do their jobs remotely.

With the cost of office space, equipment, and transportation on the rise, remote working is an attractive option for many business owners and startups alike. In addition to the cost savings, seeking out remote workers also opens up the talent pool, allowing companies to source the best workers for the job, instead of being limited to candidates who are in their local region.

Still, while workplace management offers a number of benefits, it’s important for companies to recognize, that overseeing a remote workforce comes with its own set of unique challenges. It also requires a sense of how to juggle, not just people, but schedules, personalities, projects, and more; from across the miles.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few tips for managing a remote workforce; and see how you can ensure that your team is just as effective online as in person.

Ensure That Remote is Right for You

First of all, you’ll want to make sure a remote workforce is right for your company. While some industries, obviously can’t function with an entirely remote team; such as brick-and-mortar retailers, for example, others may benefit by allowing part of their workforce to work remotely. Here’s a list of positions that can often be managed remotely:

  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Website development
  • Content writing
  • Payroll
  • Software development

Many of these tasks can be outsourced, either to freelancers, or by allowing your current employees the freedom to work remotely. As long as you are organized, and have a detailed job description for each role, you’ll be able to get a clearer idea on how you can manage your team remotely, and they’ll have a much better idea about what’s expected from them.

Choose the Right Form of Communication

Every good team requires a consistent and reliable form of communication; and this is certainly true when it comes to remote workforce management. Here’s a look at three common forms of communication for remote teams:

  • Email

For many companies, email is one of the preferred methods of communication. Email is a quick way to keep everyone updated and in the loop, regardless of what time zone your team members may be in.

  • Chat

Having a chat room open or a hangout available for quick questions can be a great way to create a collaborative environment. It is almost like having a virtual office where your teammates can work together.

  • Phone Calls/Skype Calls

Sometimes a phone call, or Skype call, will do the trick; especially if the information is time-sensitive. It’s often an easier way to get certain information across.

Determine How You Will Work Together

In most cases, online project management tools are a necessary part of remote workforce management. Choose simple software such as Google Docs or Dropbox for sharing files. Or, opt for programs like Basecamp or Trello if you’re looking for a more robust project management tool.

Track Hours and Attendance

In an office setting it’s easier to keep track of those who is coming and going, but with remote employees you have less control over your team’s whereabouts. If you’re considering a remote workforce, it’s important to take into consideration whether or not time-tracking software is right for your team. While some industries can benefit from strict hourly time-tracking, such as consulting or professional firms, or industries where you will be passing the billable hours onto the client, in some situations, it may be better to free your workforce up from the 9 to 5, and instead allow them to manage their own schedules. With freelancers, you may find it easier and more beneficial to agree on a predetermined price for services, and leave them to oversee their own timetables, rather than monitoring their hourly performance.

Consider Overlapping of Time Zones

One of the biggest challenges when overseeing remote employees is managing different time zones. With team members in different time zones it can be difficult to set up a time for everyone to be together at once. Be sure to keep this in mind when asking them to perform duties.

While establishing a thriving remote workforce requires an initial time investment, in many cases, the rewards of having a remote team more than outweigh the costs. Thanks to technology and tools that have opened up the opportunities to track and manage a remote team, as well as platforms that make it easier to find freelancers, having a distributed team doesn’t have to be any more difficult than an in-person workforce. Many industries find that it’s a great opportunity; one that results in lower costs, makes it easier to source exceptional talent, and, oftentimes results in a happier and more productive workforce as well.