The Challenges and Benefits of Managing Remote Employees

The numbers don’t lie: remote working is not only on the rise, but it’s also fast becoming our new normal.

The amount of non-self-employed people telecommuting dramatically increased by 103% between 2005 and 2016, and many staff work away from their desks 50-60% of the time.

Research also shows that more than a third of global business managers are planning to allow their teams to work remotely for one or two days per week this year. There are new challenges and benefits that should be considered when deciding whether to allow your team to work away from the office.

Research has shown that 56% of telecommuters find that remote working helps them concentrate, while 53% found that the change of scenery improves their overall wellbeing. The biggest challenge for managers is finding ways to be present, supportive, and motivational without taking away any of these benefits.

As a result, trust is a major component of successful remote management. Directors must be prepared to take a step back and allow staff to handle their own schedules. By encouraging self-motivation and general morale, you should see your staff producing a higher quality work with greater efficiency.

However, the ability to touch base with (and offer support to) staff throughout the workday is still very important in this modern, remote working structure. Management teams should put a support framework in place so that employees are kept ‘in the loop.’

This needs to be the case regardless of whether they’re working from a co-working space downtown or from a coffee shop two-doors-down. 86% of teleworkers surveyed said that managers should use modern technology—like instant messaging—to stay in touch, while the good old-fashioned phone call shouldn’t be forgotten.

Thankfully software developers have crafted some helpful apps to make remote team management easier. Tools such as Asana, Slack and Harvest are designed for communication and project management. Other cloud-based solutions may become useful to businesses for various services, including accounting (Wave) and customer service (Zendesk).

Communication is key, whether this means keeping all your employees connected as they work on a project, or help them feel less isolated.

Another side-effect of isolation may be that staff members feel disconnected from what’s going on in the company. To address this, it’s good if managers offer more context when handing down tasks.

Despite advances in technology, face-to-face meetings are still an important part of a team management strategy. For remote work structures, meetings need to strike the balance between maintaining the telecommuter’s independence and instilling your own business management style. When meetings are being scheduled sparingly and as far in advance as possible, they can create a backbone for them to work. They also form an important part of the communication.

Offices are still an important place for fostering conversation and promoting inspiration. In lieu of a set office to work from, co-working spaces—like the ones Regus provides—can give remote staff a similar experience in allowing them to meet with people with different skill-sets. Encouraging staff to work from co-working spaces while they’re travelling can help to foster creativity and inspire in the same way that a quarterly or yearly office-based brainstorming session can.

If the future’s remote, it’s time to start preparing the way for a successful transition today.

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