How you go about your remote workforce management will impact your business and its growth possibilities. One of the foundations of a flourishing remote workforce is having the right technology and management tools obtainable to make it work. Doing a subpar job will negatively impact your morale and productivity; a remote workforce would yield loyalty and drive maximum engagement if you're successful.
This guide explains in detail the concept of remote workforce management, its benefits for both managers and employees, tools, the challenges of managing remote workforces, and best practices to keep in mind.
Let’s dive in!
A remote team or workforce is a group of employees who carry out their duties off-site from a location other than the office. While there’s no consensus on the lowest number, the term “remote workforce” usually indicates that there are several or more of the team who interact from a remote location.
In some companies, all employees work remotely, a system known as “remote only.” In other cases, employees can work from another location but might still be some people who need to perform their responsibilities from a centralized office.
As the name denotes, remote workforce management is the process of overseeing employees who are working remotely. It sounds easy but involves quite a few moving parts. Typically, there are 3 key components you need to manage remote workforces successfully:
If you can balance these 3 elements effectively, you can create an environment that allows your team to work from any location.
Remote work involves more flexibility in work timings, and many remote workers fall into the category of digital nomads, individuals who often travel while working. Most remote workers aren’t limited by anything other than access to electricity and a stable Internet connection.
Here are a few of the numerous advantages of remote work for both business owners or managers and their employees:
A houseboat on the Atlantic Ocean, a beach in Seychelles, or even halfway up the mountain, employees can work from anywhere, simply with a decent and dependable Internet connection that enables real-time access to the software and tools. With this, companies can save costs on real estate, transit subsidies, in-office perks, and other expenses associated with a physical location.
Have you ever wished to advertise a position globally? Well, that time is now! Unless there is a substantial reason that you need staff close to your physical base, then you really can look anywhere for that perfect team member.
The key is equipping that remote or distributed team with the right tools. For example, you need a platform to facilitate asynchronous communication that allows everyone to stay in touch with each other through different channels. (Generally, sticking to only phone calls won’t cut it for a truly remote workforce.)
Hiring amazing remote talent is one thing, but they need to be able to do their jobs. Suppose your team is truly distributed across various time zones, and you want to boost your team's accountability and productivity. In that case, you can consider investing and equipping your team with a more effective communications platform like Slack.
As a manager, do you care where your staff works and if that work is being done efficiently? This has been some debate, but there have been several reports on how remote working can improve productivity. Better still, you can experiment with your team by conducting a survey.
One study by Businesswire-Prodoscore, a leader in employee visibility software, revealed new proprietary data about remote worker productivity and general work trend. The report indicated an incredible 47% rise in the overall productivity of employees’ work.
Most challenges or disadvantages in managing remote workforces are seen in the lack of physical, in-person interaction. This can make it more difficult for team leaders and managers to “read the room” and identify warning signs of common workforce problems such as low morale, burnout, interpersonal conflict, miscommunication, or lack of communication.
Other related remote workforce management challenges include:
Distraction: Remote workers are more prone to deal with interruptions or other distractions in their daily routine, especially if they work from home. These could include children or family members, home upkeep or chores, street noise, and many other potential sources of distraction.
Isolation: Some remote workers report dealing with social isolation, which can have various adverse impacts. Even when people don’t feel secluded, the physical separation of people on a team can make fostering a collaborative, wholesome culture more challenging.
Communication: There are multiple probable communication issues that you should guard against, including over-communication (continually checking in on a project status), miscommunication, or individuals being left out of an information-sharing loop.
When managed the right way, remote work can be highly productive. Here are some tips and best practices on how to manage remote workers:
While you should avoid micromanagement in teams, you also don’t want to leave them assuming the expectations regarding work schedules, goals, performance tracking, and other critical parts of the job. From the job ad to the employee’s first day on the job, ensure that the job description focuses on what the role will entail rather than just the required skills. Describe the role's typical week, month, quarter, etc. Additionally, in setting goals and tracking performance, ensure that employees recognize they are accountable for those goals and the outcomes.
Set up one-on-one and team meetings to check in with the team or employees individually to share updates, questions, and concerns or tackle blockers. Depending on the team culture, size, and needs, these could be daily or less frequent. For example, a simple flow to the meeting can include:
Ensure multi-directional communication, meaning you’re not just handling updates or mandates but truly listening to your team members. Solicit feedback on all aspects of the remote work experience. Show genuine concern about their welfare, not just for project updates. This gives managers an understanding of how the team is faring and alerts them in case any interventions are necessary.
Taking shortcuts with the digital tools and infrastructure your remote teams requires to do their jobs will usually not yield desired results. Ensure remote workers have dynamic, easy-to-use tools for meetings, communication, and all other elements of their daily routines. For example, utilizing the premium or paid version of the software instead of the basic or free version with limited functionalities. Also, make sure that these tools are well-designed, not just for the web but also for mobile experiences.
Be sure to recognize good quality results. It is a very common mistake to forget the importance of celebrating individual, and team achievements when the people concerned do not work physically in the same location. Similarly, applauding success does not mean spending a lot of money. Do you have a company chat, an internal social channel, or a newsletter? If so, you could leverage such a medium to share employee recognition announcements.
Additionally, you can offer wellness perks. Since your team is working from home, you can share a subscription to a music streaming service, like Spotify. On the flip side, working from home can get lonely. You can also support their mental health by gifting them membership for a therapy service. Other recognition ideas include sending appreciation packages, cards, chocolates, flowers, a surprise meal, etc.
Remember, employee recognition doesn’t have to be expensive! A little detail works wonders.
Even a remote workforce can get together and collaborate outside of work. Virtual game nights, chill meetings, or happy hours, for example, are some relatively easy ways to hang out and connect on a more personal level.
Remote workforce management functions on trust. When individuals or teams are anxious because managers doubt their remote engagement or employees feel they are being monitored closely, their performance tends to suffer. Focus more on the outcomes and results than on “desk time.”
Good remote workforce management can lead to more flexible, dynamic teams that are not bound to a specific physical location to perform their responsibilities. This would boost employee satisfaction and retention, especially among those who prefer remote work over the traditional office. Modern technology tools also make successful remote workforce management far more attainable than before and keep remote workers efficient and productive in their jobs.
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Joy Nwaiwu is a seasoned writer skilled at curating meaningful, well-articulated content spanning various industry verticals. She is an avid learner who enjoys utilizing her writing skills to create value and drive continuous growth for brands.
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