Remote work is a hot topic at the moment, with many companies transitioning towards a more distributed workforce. The advantages of this to employees are much discussed – less time commuting, more autonomy, increased ease in fitting work around life, and so on. And the advantages to employers are fairly well known too – potentially increased satisfaction among the team, and lower overheads from expensive office premises.
Jul 20, 2020
From a manager’s point of view, though, how do you actually go about managing a remote workforce? Let’s look at some key ideas of which managers need to be aware of the new distributed age.
Look out for signs of distress
When we’re all working together in an office, it’s easier to spot if someone seems down or when they’re having a rough time. But when the team members are sitting at desks in rooms potentially hundreds of miles from each other, you’re not there to pick up on the visual cues that might let you know everything isn’t ok. Check-in regularly with your staff, and make sure you don’t only discuss the bare minimum necessary for them to do their job. Ensure you are approachable and go out of your way to encourage them to raise any issues with you. And remember that late work or a surprising decrease in performance might be a sign that there is an external issue affecting your employee.
Equip your employees
You don’t want to send an army into battle without proper fighting gear. Likewise, you’re neglecting your basic duties if you’re instructing your employees in their work without giving them the tools to do it productively. If they’re expected to make video calls, have they got the cameras necessary? If you’re upgrading your system, are you sure it’s going to work on everyone’s computer, or will one person be left floundering and needing to purchase an expensive new laptop? Basic office ergonomics can be important too: when I first started working remotely, I found my neck was aching from being hunched over my laptop all day. A simple purchase of a wireless keyboard and mouse to enable me to raise my screen to eye level while still typing at a desk level made a huge difference.
Trust your employees
It can be scary for managers to have their team out of their sight so often. You need to place a bit of trust in your employees – allow them to get on with the job, and don’t be tempted to micro-manage. Doing so can irritate employees even in an office, but while remote working it can be even more frustrating as it defeats the purpose of working in a distributed manner in the first place. Remote working enables autonomy – embrace this aspect of it.
Have clear objectives
Clear objectives are always important in work – if employees are unsure of what it is they’re actually trying to achieve, they will never be able to succeed. However, this is even more crucial when working remotely, when it can be harder for the employee to ask casual questions or pick things up from the person next to them in the office. Make sure your communication about what you want from your team is clear, and ensure they are able to clarify what is required if needed.
Remote working opens up a new world of possibilities, but as with any big change, there are challenges too – particularly to managers. Ensure your management style doesn’t remain static but responds to the needs of today’s workplace.