How to effectively manage geographically dispersed teams

Managing a team of employees is more complex than it may seem. But when you’re managing a geographically dispersed team, things become way more complicated. 

When there’s physical distance between you, your team members, and wherever your home space is, simple things suddenly become a lot more difficult. Communicating isn’t as easy as walking over to your colleague’s office or cubicle—and forget a short-notice team meeting. When you’re a geographically dispersed team, you can’t track the productivity of your employees in the same way you would if you were in the same building. 

You need to find inventive ways to overcome the physical distance between you and your workers. Thankfully, there are tools and tips that you can use to manage your geographically dispersed team effectively—and we’re sharing them today. 

Let’s get started.

What is a geographically dispersed team?

A geographically dispersed team is a group of people who work together from different locations. Typically they rely on technology to communicate and collaborate. With the rise of remote work, virtual teams, and hybrid workplaces, we’re seeing more and more geographically dispersed teams. But this doesn’t just mean teams that are working remotely. 

In some cases, geographically dispersed teams never had an office to call home. Instead, they’re individuals who work in different locations all the time. For example, a landscape business may have an office, but the majority of its workforce would be on job sites during their working hours. 

Here are some of the most common businesses that rely on onsite or field employees:

  • Landscapers
  • Construction workers
  • Cleaning services
  • Pool maintenance
  • Catering companies 
  • Mobile personal trainers
  • General contractors
  • Electricians
  • HVAC repairs
  • Tutoring companies 
  • Roofing
  • Plumbing 
  • Pest control
  • Meal delivery services
  • Moving companies

Let’s dig into how you can manage your geographically dispersed team effectively. 

Why is time tracking important for geographically dispersed teams?

So many small business owners are starting to realize the money-saving power of time tracking. Any business can benefit from tracking employees’ hours, but companies that rely on hourly workers should all be using a time tracker. 

And when your team doesn’t have a central location and instead is spread across several locations, time tracking becomes even more critical. Finding a solution that allows your team to clock in and out without being tied to a physical location is the key to successful time tracking for dispersed teams.

Did you know? A recent Deloitte study found that over 30% of workers say manual time entry is one of the most time-consuming processes they have. But with the power of automated time tracking, you can improve productivity and reclaim more than $666,400 in yearly wages.

Let’s unpack why a digital time tracking app is essential for geographically dispersed teams.

Allow your team to clock in on their smartphones or computers remotely

When your team members are traveling to different locations every week, day, or few hours, they need to be able to clock in and out remotely. Having an old-fashioned punch-in and out machine at your location doesn’t work when you don’t have a centralized location. 

A time clock app allows your employees to clock in and out wherever they are. Using a smartphone, computer, or tablet, a time tracking app means employees can track their hours anytime, anywhere. Their hours are recorded and stored on the cloud with just a few clicks, meaning you can access them from your device. 

Not only does this allow your employees to track their hours easily, it can also streamline your payroll process. With Homebase, all employee time entries are automatically turned into timesheets which are then pulled into payroll. Say goodbye to tedious data entry and human error, and hello to a painless payroll process. 

Use a GPS-enabled time tracking app 

A GPS time clock is the most important time tracking feature for geographically dispersed teams. 

When employees are required to be at different locations throughout the week, you need to put your trust in a time tracking app that helps you make sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be. 

A GPS time clock does just that. A GPS or location-based time clock records your employee’s location when they clock in and out. You’ll know exactly where your team is when they start and finish work. This can help with client billing and foster trust and accountability between managers and employees. 

You can also look for a solution that offers geo-fencing. This feature allows managers to set up physical locations that are “approved”. Employees can only clock in at an approved location, so managers can rest assured that employees are at work even if the manager can’t be on site. 

Get notified when employees are late clocking in

Another excellent time clock feature managers of geographically dispersed teams should look for? Late notifications. 

Managers of teams with multiple locations can’t be everywhere at all times. That’s why having a time tracking system that notifies you when employees are late or have failed to clock in is essential.  

Thanks to the integrated employee scheduling tool in Homebase, you’ll receive a notification if an employee is late clocking in. You can then use the built-in communication app to reach out to your team member to see why they’re running late, or gently remind them to clock in if they’re already at the job site. It’s a helpful way to keep everyone on track.

How communication can make or break a geographically dispersed team

Workplace communication is so important to the success of any business. It helps outline policies and procedures, goals, and expectations and supports the development and growth of positive relationships between team members. Effective team communication makes happier, more productive employees likely to stay in their positions longer.

Poor communication, on the other hand, can decrease productivity, lower morale, and cause unnecessary confusion and frustration. Ultimately, poor communication can lead to costly mistakes and increased employee turnover. That’s why effective communication needs to happen in your organization.

The power of communication. Over 40% of workers found poor communication reduced their trust in company leadership and their team. But this number is even higher for remote workers. 54% of off-site employees feel that poor communication impacts trust in leadership and 52% report it affects trust in the team.

A geographically dispersed team complicates communication. Employees can’t walk across the store to ask for clarification or head into the kitchen to offer an explanation. The physical distance between dispersed teams makes it even more important to have good communication policies.

Here are three ways to improve communication within your geographically dispersed team.

Have an easy and convenient way to contact team members

There are a million ways to communicate with your employees, from email, to text messages, to memos, to carrier pigeons. And while we admit we’d love to see businesses use carrier pigeons to communicate, it’s not the most effective way to keep in touch with employees.

A team communication app is the perfect way to keep in contact with your employees, especially when they’re spread across multiple locations. With a dedicated messenger app, you can send messages to individuals, groups, or your entire team. Plus, your employees can access the app directly on their smartphones. No need to check the company bulletin board—everything they need to know is conveniently stored in a cloud-based app.

The free Homebase communication app is the tool your geographically dispersed team needs to communicate. You can add shift notes with specific instructions to your schedule, set up automatic reminders for upcoming shifts and clocking out, and even send announcements to the entire team. 

With a team communication app, you can stay in touch with your team members, even when you’re not face-to-face.

Schedule a consistent team meeting

Whether you’re catching up on Zoom or gathering all your employees in a physical location, having a consistently scheduled team meeting has benefits. Team meetings can help support effective communication, promote alignment, and keep everyone on the same page to drive the team toward success. 

How often you meet will depend on your business. You can choose weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings. But having a recurring meeting that your employees can rely on gives them a time when they know they can ask non-urgent questions, share their wins, and get company-wide updates.

Get the most out of your team meetings by setting an agenda for each meeting. A solid meeting agenda should include the purpose of your meeting, the expected outcome, and a brief timeline. Send your agenda out before your meeting so everyone knows what to expect. 

Create a communication policy 

One of the benefits of effective communication is the reduction of confusion and the subsequent frustration it can cause. Creating a communication policy for your business can reduce potential confusion even more.

A communication policy is the formal documentation that outlines how your team will communicate with everyone within the organization for various purposes.

Your communication policy will be built around your team’s needs, but it should cover:

  • How you communicate: Do you use email, a team messenger app, phone calls, etc?
  • Who you communicate with: Do you contact your manager, a team member, the owner, etc?
  • When you communicate: How far in advance are you expected to communicate specific information, like time off requests?
  • What you communicate: What information are you sharing? This will also impact how, when, and who you communicate with.

By outlining and sharing these policies and procedures, you’re giving your team a roadmap to help them effectively communicate within your business. This helps streamline everything from calling in sick to reporting a delivery delay to a job site. 

How on-the-go scheduling can help you manage your geographically dispersed team

As a geographically dispersed team, your business is on-the-go. Having processes and tools in place that support your mobile nature will help you effectively manage your team. A great place to start is with your scheduling software

Managing schedules across multiple job sites or locations can be a logistical nightmare. But with the right tools, you can easily adjust your schedule on the fly to keep your customers—and your employees—happy. 

When looking for scheduling software, look for something digital and cloud-based. You can adjust the schedule when an employee has to change their availability or book a new customer, even if you’re on a job site with nothing more than your smartphone at the ready.

Leverage the power of workforce forecasting

With advanced sales and weather forecasting, Homebase makes it even easier to keep your labor costs down while still keeping your job sites staffed. You can make data-driven decisions when creating schedules for your employees.

Homebase analyzes your sales trends and local weather patterns, so you can predict customer demand and adjust staffing levels accordingly. This is a powerful feature for geographically dispersed teams who work outdoors. Stop making last-minute changes to your availability for customers and start leveraging sales and weather forecasts to help you schedule employees when and where you need them.

Keep track of your employees, wherever they are

Homebase is the easiest way to track your employees’ time no matter which job they’re working, thanks to our free time clock app. 

Get started today

Geographically dispersed teams FAQs 

What’s the difference between a geographically dispersed team and a remote team?

The difference between geographically dispersed and remote teams is that remote teams do a job that could be done from an office at work. In contrast, a geographically dispersed team is a group of people working together from different locations because the work occurs at various locations. For example, a software as a service company may work remotely with all its employees working from home. But a landscaping company operates from a variety of locations, with employees working at different locations at different times.

What is a GPS time clock?

A GPS or location-based time clock records your employee’s location when they clock in and out. This ensures that you know exactly where your team is when they start and finish work. When employees are required to be at different locations throughout the week, you can rely on a GPS time clock to confirm that all of your employees are where they need to be when they need to be there.

What are the benefits of tracking employee hours for geographically dispersed teams? 

The benefits of tracking employee hours for geographically dispersed teams are far-reaching. Time tracking not only impacts how you manage your employees but also your employees, customers, and your business as a whole.

Here are some of the ways time tracking can benefit your geographically dispersed team:

  • You’ll get better visibility into your labor costs
  • You can reduce time theft and buddy punching, saving you money
  • You can boost employee happiness by ensuring they’re paid correctly and on time
  • With a GPS time clock, you’ll be able to track when and where your employees clock in from
  • You’ll save your team time by going digital with your time tracking
  • Your employees will become more productive
  • You’ll have a clear view of any potential overtime, once again saving your business money
  • You’re more likely to stay compliant with labor laws

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