Best Practices For Managing a Remote Workforce

Being the savvy trend watcher that I am, I have noticed a decisive uptick in remote working this past week or so.

(OK, if we can’t laugh a little right now, then we’re really doomed.)

While working remotely has been on our collective radar for quite some time, and while it is really, really important to millennials, we never took their ‘it’s a life-or-death issue!’ literally. (Dumb humor x 2.)

But yes, all of a sudden not a few small businesses – indeed most small business – have found themselves having to figure out this remote work thing in a hurry.

Having been a remote worker before it was even a thing, up to now when I manage a remote team of my own, I know there are some great tools out there and some important best practices to keep in mind as you navigate this brave new world.

I break it down into soft skills and smart tools.

Smart tools

The great thing about most office work today is that it can be done anywhere, well, except for Starbucks (black humor x1) and anytime. But even better is that working by yourself at home does not mean you have to work alone. There is a plethora of tools out there that allow people to work remotely yet collaboratively.

Here are some of the best:

Office 365 and Teams: With the cloud version of Microsoft’s well-known Office suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.), along with conferencing tools like chat and video calls, you can work anywhere, but together. You can attend meetings online, collaborate on the same document, share files, etc. This is a collaborative efforts of tech companies like WebEx, Google, and GoToMeeting, who are offering free tools right now to help your team work remotely.

Zoho Remote: is offering its suite of remote working tools for free until July 1.

Zoom Chats: Increasingly popular, Zoom chats are affordable and a great way to stay in touch.

Tools: Among other things, in my other life, I run a great website for Allstate called Small Business Connection. Aside from a ton of great, free, small business content, we have assembled almost 100 free tools, many centered around the remote workforce. This eGuide might be very useful – “Power your small business with the cloud and mobile.”

Soft skills

The other part of the equation is that, right now, you need to learn how to manage people with whom you are not in constant physical contact. There is an art to it. Here are some of our top tips:

Engage regularly: Especially now, it is critical that you stay in contact. Have regular check-ins. Chat. Text. Share calendars. (Calendy is excellent for this.)

Video chat: The face to face of a video call can go a long way to easing the burden and distance of working alone. As mentioned, Zoom chats and the like are the way to go. Group conference calls will be especially critical at this time for keeping the team and dream going.

Give them the tools they need: Not everyone may be set up for this technology-based business model I am advocating, and so, to the extent people on your team need help getting up to speed, it is your job to give it to them.

Make everyone accountable: Set clear expectations with regard to projects, due-dates, and deadlines.

Stay informed: In this time of coronavirus, and as a leader, it is also incumbent upon you to stay informed. The best resource we have found so far is from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Today’s Tip: Want to help your favorite local small business? Then buy a gift certificate, either in person or online. When this craziness ends, and it will end, you can redeem it, knowing you made a difference at a critical moment.

Go small or go home!


Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is the senior small business columnist at USA TODAY, the Editor-in-Chief here at Small Business Connection, a speaker and spokesperson. He can be reached at

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