Creative ways to support managers of remote teams

How to Successfully Manage Your Remote Workforce

The way you manage a remote workforce will have long-term implications for your business and its growth potential. If you do a poor job, morale and productivity will suffer; if you’re successful, a remote workforce can build loyalty and boost engagement. Here are some tips to help you tackle the challenges of managing remote employees, plus the pros and cons of having a remote workforce.

Remote work happens when employees don’t report to a physical office. They still work their normal hours, but from home. For years, many companies resisted the idea of allowing employees to work from home. Presumably afraid that employees would spend their time doing laundry, watching TV or taking care of errands, employers preferred to have their workers in the office. Business owners and managers also feared that collaboration would fall to the wayside and productivity would decline.

However, many of those concerns turned out to be unfounded, at least several months into the large shift to remote work spurred by COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, just 1 in 30 companies had at least half of their staff working remotely, according to research from human resources consulting firm Mercer. As of late August 2020, it was 1 in 3. Of the employers surveyed, 94% said productivity has remained the same or increased since employees began working remotely.

Key takeaway: Remote work used to be considered a perk, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a requirement for many employees. However, many companies plan to keep remote work arrangements in place even after the pandemic.

by Brent Daub

September 2, 2021

As remote work transitions from a temporary pandemic necessity to a permanent workplace fixture, talent leaders must ensure a successful remote working model, which begins with investing in support for managers.

Managers are the most important people in your business. No other position has as much influence with your employees. Great leaders put the right managers in place and equip them to succeed. To navigate the uncertainty of transition, providing support to the managers of your remote teams may be the most important investment to make.

Successful businesses bring together diverse teams of employees to serve a broad base of customers. It is management’s responsibility to ensure each team member meets these expectations month after month. Managerial responsibilities have become even more difficult as employees work outside of the office. Below are four ways to support managers so they can consistently achieve organization goals while working remotely.

Being the manager is not the same as knowing how to manage. This is especially true in the new remote working environment. Supervising a team of remote workers is different than overseeing a traditional office. Managers are responsible for the overall performance of their teams and flexible working programs might be seen as disruptive if managers believe these arrangements make it more difficult to achieve the team’s goals.

Supervisors must learn how to adjust their managerial approach to enable remote workers to be successful outside the office. Providing clear expectations about structure and goals of remote working programs is critical for success. Training should be implemented to help managers understand the company’s remote policies and learn how to best supervise those in alternative work settings. Top leadership must explain how remote work fits with the overall business strategy so managers can understand how these programs help the company achieve goals and how their roles impact success.

The managerial training should address the mistaken belief that employees must be seen sitting in their office chair to verify they are working. An employee’s worth to the organization is not measured by how much they are seen in the office but by what they accomplish.

Training helps managers understand performance is measured by the quality of service, timeliness of service and work produced. Managers need to know what metrics to monitor and what output to measure, so they can think in terms of performance and tasks accomplished, not time at a desk. When they understand how to effectively monitor the performance of their remote workers, they will be more confident their team is reaching performance goals.

Establish a foundation of trust and support for your management team to succeed in challenging times. This begins with healthy channels of communication. Communication is the currency of effective leadership. Organizations that do it well have a strategic advantage. Open channels of communication with top leaders are needed for supervisors to feel supported. Utilizing a collaborative leadership style based on healthy communication influences the emergence of trust, providing a foundation for everyone to effectively work together.

Additionally, leaders need to create a cooperative model within the team that allows managers to work together collaboratively rather than in isolation and unhealthy competition. Peer relationships provide a source of support and comradery. Managers need healthy relationships with colleagues to discuss and address common challenges and identify shared solutions. When leaders invest in the relationship building process within the managerial team, it sets up the remote working environment for success.

Every company has written and unwritten policies that guide the organization. However, many may not have formal remote work policies in place. Supervising remote employees can be difficult when managers do not know what is expected. Without a clearly defined policy, managers are sailing a ship without a map and the remote work program may run aground. Having a formal written policy in place will help provide direction and security for managers to feel supported in their role.

This policy should be developed collaboratively with all levels of management, along with input from top performers who successfully demonstrated they can work remotely. The drafting of a remote working policy needs to contemplate many scenarios, applications and exceptions. Spend extra time planning to avoid having to clean up practical and legal challenges that may arise from a poorly written policy.

The written guidelines need to be detailed enough to provide clear instruction but not so rigid as to limit manager creativity. The policy should be clear on who is eligible for remote work and what performance requirements are necessary to participate. For instance, the policy must clearly state the times during the day when all employees must be available and working, either for customer service or for inter-company communication.


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