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How to best mange a remote workforce

Working remotely is no longer just for independent entrepreneurs, distant employees or freelancers. Smart companies are now going where the talent is. But the question is, how do you manage these people?

Gone are the days of employees needing to brave a long commute into an office or the restrictions of hiring staff solely on locality. We now face a shifting landscape of what’s considered ‘normal’ work-life behaviour, as companies are embracing remote working technology on a greater scale to better suit their needs.

We recently conducted research that found, despite some level of guilt about being away from the office, working remotely is making people happier and healthier. 49% of employees aged 50 years or older, and 70% of millennials are already spending time working away from traditional offices.

As a result, businesses need to rethink the management of these team members to ensure that productivity, engagement and morale remain high.

Firstly, you must ensure that human connections are still being made, regardless of whether team members are physically working in the same location or not. For example, video conferencing tools can make distant employees feel like they’re in the same room.

However, everyone needs to play ball. If a meeting consists of a mix of in-person and remote attendees, everyone should turn their cameras. And those in the room should ensure they specifically address those who aren’t present, so that all participants are equally included and involved.

Another important element is to eradicate the old-school mindset of, “You can’t manage it, if you can’t see it”. Too often, I hear the common misconception that those who work from home are slacking off.

The person at the desk next to the manager may spend 10 hours a day in the office, but are they working hard that whole time, or could they be watching sports, shopping online or planning their next vacation?

Managers can’t assume that employees they can see are working, or that employees they can’t see are not. They, therefore, need to set goals for each employee and have regular check-ins to compare goals with results. This allows managers to focus on each employee’s individual results and their business impact, regardless of where they’re working from.

If you do start to see an employee’s results slip, their manager must explore why this is the case. Is it a skills or training issue, a poor hiring decision or is there something else entirely that’s causing the employee to struggle?

It’s not likely to be caused by working remotely. In fact, most people perform better in this setting, as they can escape a lot of the noise and distraction of the office.

The next challenge is keeping your workers engaged, as this is essential for productivity and overall business success. There’s no question about it, managing remote workers can be more challenging.

Managers have to plan interactions, as remote workers often miss the rapport-building “how was your weekend” type moments that naturally happen when in the office together. But, with a little forethought, it’s easy to create opportunities for engaging with remote employees.

In addition to the individual performance check-ins, managers should coordinate regular virtual team meetings to help people stay connected with their teams. These meetings are also a great opportunity for recognising individuals’ accomplishments and for team building.

With more companies jumping on board the remote-working trend, understanding the best ways to manage your flexible team members will ensure seamless workflow and boost employee morale.

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