Managing Remote Work Teams: Part I

Perhaps you’re an organization that is considering moving your work team off site.  Or maybe you want to widen your employee pool by looking outside of your geographic area.  You’ll likely have the challenge of managing a remote work force.  While the basic concepts of human resources management still apply, keeping remote employees engaged and productive requires an additional set of skills.

1 – Measure what’s important

We all know that it is difficult to manage something you can’t measure. In the ‘old days’ measuring staff performance seemed easier because managers could see who was pulling their weight and who wasn’t.

2 – Keep the lines of communication open

You don’t need to talk to your employees all the time, but you do need an easy way for you and your workers to communicate when there’s a need. And since a good manager often does more listening than talking, it really needs to be a two-way process.

3 – Focus on deliverables, not activities

Mobile workers change the dynamics of management. No longer can managers be obsessed with controlling and dictating their employees’ day-to-day activities. Instead, they have to step back and assess the bigger picture. What are the end goals I want my staff to achieve? By communicating openly with your staff on agreed objectives, you can then leave them to determine how they can accomplish those goals. This can have the added bonus of engaging the creativity and initiative of your staff to achieve the desired outcomes.

4 – Acknowledge that your management style will likely need to change

If you’ve been used to a more hands-on management style, or being an ‘over-the-shoulder’ manager, then the first major challenge you’ll have to grapple with is that you’ll need to change. This can be difficult when you’ve been managing in a certain way for many years, but keep in mind that these changes will be difficult for everyone. By being ready and willing to change, you’ll set a good example for your staff as they go through transitions of their own.

The level of trust between you and your staff will be tested during the transition. If that trust is currently on shaky ground, then that issue should be addressed before anything else. Give your staff the benefit of the doubt, extending trust unless they show they’re undeserving of it.

5 – Use the available technology to complement your management

Even though technology may be the reason you are now managing mobile workers, it will never replace you as a manager. In fact, you can use technology to complement your management efforts. For example, there are many communication tools available that can make the flow of information smoother and more meaningful. Online meeting tools like Skype or instant chat can make keeping in contact with mobile workers easier than ever before. Web-based software for recording timesheets, sending and receiving e-mails, or monitoring staff location can be valuable tools to keep track of your employees.


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