In an age where we have the technology to enable us to work from anywhere using multiple devices there are some new challenges where leadership is concerned. Managing remote teams should not be any more difficult than those in the office, leaders just need to tweak their strategies slightly to suit this way of working.
Working from home is an ever increasing expectation of employees and managing a remote workforce is an essential leadership skill in most businesses. The number of people working remotely is estimated to have increased from just over 3.5 million in 2008 to over 4 million in 2014*.
This rising trend isn’t expected to slow down either as more solutions become available to enable such working practices.
Trust your team to work unsupervised
Trust plays a huge part in any management of a remote workforce. If you can’t trust your employees then should they be working for you at all? Employees should be aware that telecommuting requires them to be just as productive and responsible as if they were working in the office.
There’s no excuse to be any less able to do a job from home, if that is the case then working from home’s not really a viable option.
The reverse of this is that an employee that doesn’t feel they have the trust of their manager won’t be an employee for long.
Don’t let communication slack
Just because a team is working from different locations doesn’t mean that communication should be effected.
Apps on employee’s phones, extensions for Chrome and IE and, what many people now forget – the phone, all provide a means by which to discuss projects, share ideas and provide progress to team members.
In many cases using the internet is a more efficient way to communicate as it enables not only audio but visual tools as well by which to collaborate and costs no more money than the internet charges already paid.
With all these tools available communication and collaboration should be more effective than ever before, whether local or remote.
Don’t compromise on objectives or expectations
If productivity can’t be maintained when working remotely then telecommuting isn’t an option.
Employees working away from the office should be made aware that as much is expected from them as those people working from the office.
Previously set objectives and targets should not be compromised for remote staff, however if required, can be amended without effecting productivity.
Make an effort to socialise
Working in different locations often means that employees also work alone. Encouraging and organising opportunities for your team to meet in person and socialise will help to maintain real relationships, not just ones in the digital world.
It’s also important that your team have the opportunity to socialise with the rest of the business to ensure that they stay up to date with new employees and changes in the office environment.
If your team are never seen by the rest of the business then they’ll simply be remembered as the empty chair where they used to sit. Employees need to meet and interact with each other in order to learn about different members personalities. This will help them to interact and work as a team even if they’re not all in the same office.
Ensure everyone’s aware of the rules
Setting ground rules for those employees telecommuting is an essential part of managing a successful team. Each employee should be aware of what is and isn’t appropriate when working away from the office, as they would when working within it.
Clarity will also make your team feel more comfortable and they’ll now what to do in certain situations rather than having to contact the office to check.
Make sure your team’s got the tools they need
Organising equipment with your IT department and not leaving it to the individuals concerned will show that you’re actively enabling them to telecommute.
Sorting out everything they need will be appreciated by your team and also benefit you in their work output and efficiencies.
Recap and improve with your team
As with anything new it’s important to discuss how all aspects of telecommuting are going with you team, topics that could be covered include:
- Are there any new tools required?
- Are there any solutions that don’t work and need changing?
- Are there any general difficulties being experienced by your team?
- Is there anything you as the leader can do to improve things?
- What does work and are all team members aware of it?
By openly and regularly discussing processes, successes and issues you’ll not only improve the way everyone’s able to work remotely but also your team cohesiveness and leadership skills.
*Office for National Statistics (UK)