How to Successfully Manage a Remote Workforce
Remote working is not a new phenomenon. Although more and more companies have had remote workers in place in recent times, COVID-19 has forced the issue on others, and to a much further extent for those who were already practicing this in the workplace. As more states and cities issue stay at home orders, many find themselves with no choice but to transition to working remotely. This is yet another challenge businesses need to learn to navigate as this situation continues to change.
Many managers don’t have experience working remotely and managing their team remotely. The same management style used for in-office workers will likely be ineffective with those working from home. A shift in office culture, beginning with the boss, is necessary to keep remote employees happy and productive. Outlined below are challenges and strategies for successfully managing your remote team – whether it’s just for an interim period as we are faced with now, or for those who previously had remote staff in place.
Key Challenges of Managing Remote Workers
Working outside of the office can come with its own unique set of challenges for your employees, including:
- Feeling isolated and not a part of the team.
- Not having clear metrics to measure their work.
- Having trouble staying motivated.
It’s harder for remote workers to measure their success. Many may not know what their boss expects them to get accomplished in a day. This struggle can cause remote workers to feel disconnected from both their work and their boss.
Remote work can cause an impasse in a company’s “corporate culture” and remote workers may experience feelings of isolation and that they are missing out on building and maintaining work relationships. These feelings of isolation can foster unhappiness and a feeling of disconnect with the company and their work.
Strategies for Combatting These Challenges
Despite the challenges, successfully managing a remote workforce is possible. There are ways to overcome and combat each challenge. The key to this – clear communication. Fostering strong communication between yourself, your remote workforce, and your in-office employees is the key to employee retention.
Strategies to implement with a remote workforce include:
- Communicating the importance of work-life balance.
Remote workers may find it hard to separate their work from their daily life. When an employee’s home is their office, it’s easy to feel like they’re always at work. Encouraging your employees to unplug at the end of the day is key to keeping them happy. But you need to do this as well. Limit your emails and communication to work hours.
- Giving regular progress reports and feedback.
Create clear metrics by which to measure the work your remote employees complete. Have a conversation with them to ensure the metrics are agreed upon by everyone. Once these metrics are set, track them. Give remote workers regular progress reports and feedback, just like you would with an in-office employee.
- Establishing routine communication – both work-related and personal – between all staff.
A lack of communication is the killer of a remote workforce. Work with your remote employees to establish clear and consistent communication between them and the rest of the company. Managers must check in with their staff regularly and ask for updates. They should receive the same level of communication as your in-office employees. This will help them to feel connected to and valued by the company.
- Investing in new technologies to create an inclusive office culture.
To encourage communication between your remote employees and their in-office counterparts, invest in technology. It could be a platform like Slack that allows for multiple channels. Or it could be a video conferencing platform so everyone can physically see one another.
Managing Remote & In-Office Employees
What’s important to remember is that both sets of workers – in-office and remote – should receive equal time and care. The goal of these strategies is for all employees to feel part of a whole. They shouldn’t feel separate from one another or resent one another.
During this current situation, it’s important to know how to manage a remote workforce. With no idea just how long this will last, many more companies may have to switch to remote work. It’s important to try to keep your employees engaged and happy until we can all return to normalcy.
- “Hiring and Managing a Remote Workforce.” Indeed, 26 December 2019.
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