When Yahoo! put the kibosh on remote working, requiring employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities, you can’t help but think about your own team and how instituting a policy like this would impact your team. As part of a global company that demands the best people on the ground in markets across the world, a well-rounded workforce may well be geographically dispersed and stretched across multiple time zones. As a manager it’s imperative to know how to keep that lifeline open and functioning efficiently.
When asking 24,000 people about their views on flexible working; an overwhelming 89% said that their managers needed to accept flexible work more, according to a recent Regus survey. Managers should take note and listen to their workforce’s demands. You should be free to tap the best talent to get the job done – no matter where he or she is based. However, with this freedom comes the expectation and responsibility of top-notch performance.
Given a flexible workforce, the most significant shift for managers has been measuring and rewarding output over employee face-time. It is your primary responsibility to put your team in the best possible position for success. Managing people who work both on- and off-site is not always easy and requires advance planning. Here is some expert advice to keeping productivity and morale up even if your team is spread out.
Keep the lines of communication open as dialogue helps mitigate miscommunication and failed outcomes. Choose the communication method to suit the task. For one-on-one strategy calls or critical status updates, phone calls are often the best. For team meetings, use video conference calls and Skype. It’s important your team gets time to collaborate with one another. With tools like iMeet, Google Hangouts and your video communication system, no one can say they “didn’t know.”
Be a motivator and connector. Having a sense of belonging to something larger than a one-man island promotes accountability and responsibility while reinforcing your corporate culture. Promote continuing education classes and encourage team members to communicate responsibly with each other via social media.
Being flexible is often part of the DNA of every employee. For employees who work from home, distractions (the dog, the noise from the dishwasher) can hinder productivity. Being removed from colleagues can also lead to feelings of isolation. Providing your employees with alternative office solutions gives them access to a professional work environment and a place for spontaneous networking or co-working; these factors can make all the difference in levels of productivity.
From day-one, clearly define goals and your expectations. Understanding end-results and objectives, and knowing they may not have real-time oversight, provides remote workers direction when taking on projects. An example of a typical goal for a team could be: test a new online advertising campaign by mid-Q1 to deliver 50% more leads within a six-month period. Measure progress along the way and answer questions or issues as quickly as possible.
The key to managing the modern, mobile workforce is to truly relinquish “line of sight” control. Instead of judging an employee’s work by hours in the office, focus on cultivating teamwork, creativity, responsiveness, and ultimately, productivity. Equip your employees with the technology, resources, and tools to be successful. Ask for their feedback. Their input could help improve business processes. Your expertise at virtual leadership is invaluable to your company, and something more of us will need to embrace, faster than you think.
A “highlights-callout” on group calls is a great way to showcase the good work your team is doing. You must believe in real-time feedback, acknowledge accomplishments, and offer constructive criticism as the work is delivered, not days or months later. To ensure positive progress as a manager, you should always be involved and consistent.
To overcome other geographically induced challenges like differing time zones, choose one universal time zone. For example, use your main headquarters’ time zone so that calls and virtual conferences are anchored there no matter where in the world your employees are.
Oftentimes remote employees miss out on the day-to-day interaction.Strive to never forget a birthday (recurring calendar reminders help) and try to do something special no matter how far away an employee may be.
While it may not be easy to manage a virtual workforce, the world is changing and the top managers will be those who embrace flexibility. Using purposeful communication, defining clear goals, and relinquishing “line of sight” management practices will lead your workforce into the practical, proven successes derived from remote working.
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Photo Credits: the conference call by Flickr: Noel Hidalgo; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com