There are plenty of challenges to face when you’re the boss. Taking care of a large team of workers is one of the biggest you might have. But how on earth can you manage that team if none of them work in your building? Remote workers and freelancers are notoriously difficult to lead and manage. Fortunately, the world is changing. This type of working is becoming the norm. Managers are learning to excel and encourage productive working relationships from afar.
For any employee that works from home, privacy is essential. After all, their family lives in their workplace! That means that visits and video calls can feel a little invasive. If you find it is necessary to work face-to-face in this way, make sure it is scheduled so that the employee can make the necessary arrangements. Many homeworkers enjoy the freedom of casual-wear while they work too. A professional meeting calls for professional attire, even if it is not demanded or expected.
Some remote workers are also master jugglers of their home life and working life. They can spend half an hour catching up with emails and then go and change a baby’s diaper. Next task on the list might be a conference call followed by nursing their little one. This level of freedom is essential for some and hard to imagine for others. A great boss respects the preferences of work-life balancing. Support that wherever possible without judging.
Too many managers still believe that working from home means an employee is skiving. Just because you can’t see what they’re doing, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing what they were tasked with! However, as with an office environment, there are times when motivation might be lacking. This is where the great boss steps in and gives their workers plenty of inspiration and encouragement.
The more engaged, involved and inspired the worker is, the more productive they will be. If the work is boring, lacking any opportunity for creativity, and seemingly pointless, it won’t be done well. Make sure your team knows what the overall objective is. Ensure everyone realizes fully how important their tasks are. And make sure full results are released, so they understand that they’ve fully achieved what was required. Why not share the benefits too?
Is it more difficult to develop a good working relationship with someone who isn’t there? Many managers tend to hide away in their own offices anyway, so what’s the difference! Still, if you like to be quite hands-on, you might struggle with the distance. Check in once or twice a day, and be available should an employee need you. Arrange for a conference call where the whole team can get involved with the meeting.
Don’t be afraid to talk about career progressions and other work opportunities. It’s important you get to know about your worker’s aspirations. Where do they want to take their career? Many people work from home so they can happily balance their family life when they have children. That doesn’t mean they want to stay in that same job until the kids finish school. On the contrary, they probably want everything you want. A great career with a clear path to promotion and pay rises. What can you offer them?
So how can you improve productivity in your remote workforce? First of all, ask yourself do you need to? Are they accomplishing everything they need to within the time parameters you have set out? Don’t feel you should keep pushing for more and more from a worker. Consider how much they would get done in a standard office environment inside normal working hours. Ask them to use this free tool to log their working hours if they are paid by the hour. Check they’re meeting a typical quota of work and that the remuneration matches the results.
To help workers achieve more within their working day, consider offering more freedom for them to complete it. Working from home means that working hours no longer mean anything. You might need to set deadlines to meet client expectations. Beyond that, the remote worker might prefer evening work or early mornings. The nine-to-five doesn’t really exist. Freedom is very important to workers. If they can work when it is convenient for them, their productivity will increase.
Is it easy to manage a remote workforce? It shouldn’t really be any different than managing the team in your own office. You still need to be available, and you still need to motivate your employees. You also need to spend time listening to what they need and making the most of their input and suggestions. Be a great boss.