Did you know that between 80 and 90 percent of employees would like remote work for at least part of their work week?

Affording staff the freedom to align work with their lives is not the only benefit of embracing a remote team for your small business. With fewer restrictions on your workplace location, you’ll have access to not only the best talent in your region but the best in the country – even the world.

What’s more, with the influx of powerful cloud-computing apps for business, you can improve productivity and cut costs on in-house tech services with remote support.

If you’re looking to make working remotely effective for your company, follow these five steps.


1. Invest in reliable tools

The success of a remote team relies heavily on the tools they use. If your employees have trouble hearing you on a conference call, can’t download or collaborate on a file, and run out of storage space, you’re in trouble. Investing in reliable tools – Office 365, for example – is absolutely imperative, and not just for productivity.

Collaboration in a remote team is just as important as in any local workforce, especially for building a sense of community, culture, and belonging. Find a flexible platform with easy integration of the kind of communication, scheduling and productivity applications you need most and build on that. From document sharing to CRM and video conferencing, make sure everyone has secure, flexible access to the right technology to get the job done.

If you’re not confident you have the right tech to transition to a remote workforce, it could be worth investing in a professional technology assessment.


2. Keep your team engaged

An engaged team is a productive team, so keep everyone connected with a robust set of communication options.

Some remote employees find it useful to share what they’ll be working on that day with the rest of the team on a group message. Some will need to stay connected with a VoIP-based calling system that offers digital voicemail, multichannel messaging and call handoff to their mobile. Others may want to conduct face-to-face meetings with video chat.

Find the options and schedule that works best for your team and agree on some guidelines to keep everyone in the loop and on target.


3. Safeguard important data

Every year, millions of US records are exposed by online data breaches. Data security is a top concern for all businesses. And if you work with a remote team, the majority – if not all – of your important data will be stored online.

Ensure your staff is updated on the latest online security best practices. Things such as developing strong and unique passwords (a password manager is a great tool to keep track of these) and multi-factor authentication are simple ways to keep your business, staff, and client data protected.

Make sure your BYOD policy is thorough enough to guide employees on how to handle, access, and secure their devices used for company activity, and update company-owned devices regularly to ensure maximum protection. Set backup schedules and network permissions to ensure total protection against unauthorized activity.


4. Trust your team

Will my staff actually do their work if I allow them to work at home? Can we maintain the same work quality and turnaround standards? These are some of the most common concerns business managers have when transitioning to a remote team.

To ease these worries, first, trust your team. If they work responsibly in the office, chances are they will work responsibly at home. What’s more, many employees may have already had experience working in a remote team so they know how to get the most out of their day.

To add accountability and align expectations across the team, establish communication and work-from-home guidelines. For example, request client responses within one business day, require internal email responses the same business day, and limit scheduled calls to business hours to ensure your staff isn’t working around the clock.


5. Set clear expectations

Everyone has their own idea of what doing something ‘fast’ or to a ‘high standard’ means. It’s a good idea to set clear expectations on what you expect to be done.

One way to do this is to set goals, schedules and deadlines to avoid misunderstandings. Use project management and calendar apps to share project information, keep activity flowing and achieve important milestones on time and on target.


Final thoughts

For an increasing number of industries, remote work is becoming more than a rare option. It’s becoming a standard. And if you’re looking for ways to attract the best staff, you definitely need to be equipped for remote employees.

Just make sure you approach remote work the right way. The above tips will give you a solid foundation for a flexible, productive, agile remote workforce.