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Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce

7 minute read

Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever before, with one in three Australians now working from home on a regular basis.

For the first time ever, Aussie workers are even prioritising flexibility over pay. This means that corporate businesses who don’t offer flexible working arrangements (or who are afraid to hire remotely) could find themselves unable to retain top talent in the future.

It’s clear that businesses need to adapt to the times, but how do you manage a remote workforce effectively, know what your employees are up to, and make sure that productivity doesn’t suffer?

Key takeaways:

  • Communication should be centralised, regular and open
  • Establishing a culture of trust is essential to getting the best out of your remote workers
  • Think outside the box when it comes to communication – many businesses are adopting traditionally “social” channels like instant messaging for faster communication
  • Blend formal and informal channels of communication for the best outcomes
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities and make sure contact information is easily accessible

Keep Communication Open

Many managers fear being left in the dark if they allow employees to work out of the office. While it opens up a world of flexibility for employees, remote work can make it more difficult for management to track progress and workloads, as well as monitor the general productivity of their team.

It all comes down to one thing – communication. Keep it centralised, keep it regular, and keep it open. This may involve adoption of new tools and processes to keep everyone accountable and on the same page.

Many businesses are embracing tools like Slack, WhatsApp and instant messaging apps for communicating with their remote employees. This is smart because it fits in with the way people intuitively communicate with each other outside of work, leading to more fluid and natural communication among work teams.

Combining these traditionally “social” tools with formal teleconferences and video calls creates a well-rounded communication stack where your workers can talk, share and collaborate wherever they’re based. For example, you can share project status updates, to-do lists and meeting agendas via cloud platforms, so that everyone has access to reference material for your next conference call. Then share the minutes from the call with everyone in the chat group (or via email) to close the feedback loop and be confident that everyone is aware of key priorities and actions for the next meeting.

The most important thing is that everyone is using the same platform. There’s no use in half your team using email when the other half is monitoring their projects on Slack or Google Docs. Keep your communication centralised on just one or two networks, and stick to regular scheduled conference calls to check in on progress.

Trust Your Workers

Speaking of the need to constantly monitor your employees – they really hate that.

There’s a wide assumption among employers that remote workers are less productive at home, but studies show that’s actually not the case. In fact, as FlexJobs’ 2017 Annual Survey found, many employees believe they are more productive out of the office.

With the right tools in place, employees should be able to manage their own time and get things done without the need for micro-management, and employers should easily see what’s being done without having to bug their workers with phone calls and emails.

Having a culture of trust is important. It opens up the floor for employees to prove themselves while being empowered to work wherever and however they do it best. The outcome is often a more motivated and more loyal team.

Establish Clear Roles & Responsibilities

Who does your team call in an emergency? If they have a question, who do they ask?

When your employees work remotely, it’s important to have clear roles and responsibilities established. If someone has a question, they can’t just walk around the office until they find the right person to speak to.

Any internal communications plan should include a clear hierarchy of important contacts and their responsibilities. This way, your employees know who to call if they have a question or if disaster strikes and they need to communicate urgently. It also ensures that everyone understands their own responsibilities so that important tasks don’t slip through the cracks.

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