Small businesses hiring is up. Make sure remote employees are productive and engaged

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Small businesses aren’t letting uncertainty over the upcoming presidential election or holiday shopping dampen their outlook. A just released Fall/Winter Chase Business Leaders Outlook finds that 65% of nearly 900 small businesses surveyed are optimistic about their business over the next 12 months, and 55% feel the same way about their industry.  On the economy, small businesses are somewhat less optimistic. Only 49% are optimistic about their local economy and 42% feel that way about the national economy. These figures are slightly down from spring of this year when 53% expressed optimism about their local economy and 43% about the national economy.

Plans for hiring are up

The Chase survey also found small businesses plan on increasing staff over the next 12 months. Among participants, 35% plan to increase part-time employees and 27% to increase full-time workers.

In an effort to attract and retain employees, many small business owners are offering flexible, remote and mobile work options. While workplace flexibility may improve job satisfaction  (a Plantronics survey found that workers with choices of when and where to work are 12% more satisfied with their jobs), it poses management and operational challenges. For example, small businesses need to consider what is the best way to create a cohesive team when employees are in different locations? Also how do you keep employees motivated and ensure that they are properly equipped to perform their jobs?

Meet tech needs of remote workers

Equipping employees with the right mobile technology, including smartphones, laptops and apps, is the first step to meeting some of these challenges. With the aid of cloud-based document management software, employees can collaborate on the development of documents wherever they are. Video conferencing  makes it possible to have “face time” even when participants are hundreds of miles from each other, and web conferencing enables presentation and desktop sharing when necessary.

Headsets also help to foster communication. Wireless headsets make it easier for employees to take a call or participate in a video conference or video chat “on the fly” when they are out of the office. With the noise cancelling capability of headsets, employees also don’t have to worry about interference from background noise, which can affect productivity and the accurate exchange of information.

Foster a collaborative spirit

While technology can facilitate collaboration; it can’t necessarily ensure it. Yet collaboration is what’s needed to serve customers betters, stay up to date on industry trends that impact business and share tips to perform more efficiently and effectively.  That’s why it’s necessary for small businesses to make knowledge sharing part of the company’s culture and recognize employees for the knowledge they share.

Trust is also a big part of the success of team members working remotely. Just because you can’t see remote workers, doesn’t mean they are not working. Establish performance-based objectives but convey a high level of trust.

Business optimism, the right tools to get the job done and a culture of collaboration make for a winning formula. It’ll get your employees’ vote anytime.

About Judi Hembrough

Judi leads Americas Marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) customer segment at Plantronics. Judi has been a marketing director at Plantronics for 10 years in various roles focused on Strategic Alliances Marketing, SMB and Home & Home Office solutions. Prior to Plantronics, Judi was President of William-Christie Associates, Inc. -- a management consulting practice, for 10 years where she guided numerous companies such as Palm, Intuit, CBS MarketWatch and HID, in driving new initiatives.