Managing a Remote Workforce – Part 1

How to Manage a Remote Workforce

Managing a remote workforce often requires a complete change of focus from managing a team based on your business premises. Employees working remotely tend to spend the majority of their time away from your main base, and this can lead to challenges in how best to support and guide them. We have outlined some key points to consider when managing a remote team:

Line Managers – Managing a Remote Workforce 

If you’re managing a remote workforce, it is vital they fully understand their roles and the limits of their decision-making. Unlike employees who work on a fixed base, remote teams will find it harder to gain advice and support, which on-site employees are naturally able to access. Therefore, it is important not to micromanage people working remotely; instead, line managers need to make themselves regularly available to provide support and advice, when needed. By providing clear guidance on tasks, timescales, and expected results, remote workers are more likely to seek information, as and when required, rather than needing extensive guidance on how to carry out their day-to-day roles. The emphasis should always be on motivating and, sometimes, coaching remote staff to help them fulfil their roles effectively. This is essential when it comes to any career planning or training, as remote workers need the same opportunities as on-site staff. A clear career plan and appraisal process needs to be set. The same information and recognition given to on-site teams needs to be provided to remote teams too.

Communication and Motivation

Due to the solitary nature of remote working, communicating regularly is the key to being able to motivate these employees. People can feel ignored, isolated, or undervalued because they feel detached from any decision-making. Regular communication by line managers, either on a one-to-one basis or in team meetings/calls, can help remote employees to feel a sense of worth. Organising routine face-to-face meetings at a business base, as well as regular telephone and email contact, will help to ensure any issues can be resolved in a timely manner. This can start during their induction process and continue in appraisals, but regular catch-ups should always be encouraged. Find a way for remote workers to share their ideas, discuss any problems and convey any successes to your other employees – this will motivate people and could improve working practices. Set up a weekly team conference call where remote workers can dial in, or you might decide to set up an intranet forum or ‘chat room’ – or you could utilise social media by creating private groups. When remote employees understand the purpose of their roles, they will feel more motivated to progress team or company goals.

  • Give regular, informal feedback by email, telephone or during team meetings;
  • Give formal feedback during appraisal meetings – include how they are improving and how their work is valuable to your business;
  • Inform them of your business and team successes, progress towards any goals, and how they have contributed to these achievements;
  • Meet regularly on a one-to-one basis – encourage commitment and help remote workers feel a sense of worth; and…
  • Hold regular team meetings in person, through conference/video calls, to help remote workers feel they are part of the team.

Remote Managing – Dos and Don’ts

  • Do plan telephone calls in advance and schedule them so nothing distracts your employee whilst you speak with him/her.
  • Do write down what you are going to say, especially if it is likely to be a lengthy or intense discussion.
  • Do make regular contact – whether this is by telephone or email; a good tip is to flag any important emails if you need an urgent response.
  • Do ask your employee to run-through your discussion and summarise any actions required, this ensures that your employee fully understands what you have said and provides evidence should any management of the employee be required.
  • Do keep an audit trail of the conversation if it is important, you may wish to confirm the most significant points in an email.
  • Don’t assume your employee will respond to a conversation or email, if you need a response, then ask.
  • Don’t telephone out of the blue expecting your employee to discuss an important issue, there and then, especially if the conversation is expected to last some time.

Time and Performance Management for Remote Workers

Due to the flexible nature of remote working, bad time management can often lead to poor performance. The law states that employees cannot be required to work more than 48 hours a week, so make sure remote workers do not feel under pressure to exceed this. Why not put together a framework for your employee’s working day and test over a trial period, then review to see whether the timetable you have set is realistic?

Set clear and measurable targets for performance to ensure your remote employees know what they need to achieve – and the potential outcome of not meeting their performance targets. Supervision of remote workers can be difficult, which is why the above section on communication is key to effective management.

We will publish part 2 next week, if you require any training or further guidance on this HR topic, please call us on 01455 231982 | 07716 918272 or send us a message through our contact form.

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