Working from Home: Managing Your Staff Remotely

The ‘work from home’ trend is gaining unstoppable momentum. But how can contemporary managers leverage the benefits of a dynamic workforce, without compromising on productivity?

Workplace ethics are rapidly transforming, with the next generation of ‘millennial’ employees vying for freedom, flexibility and a better work/life balance. Employers are answering the call, with the latest figures from a McCrindle Research study showing that 25% of Australians carry out work from a second location for at least one hour a week. 12% listed three to four locations, while 10% of the nation’s workforce are productive across more than five different hubs.

Working remotely goes hand in hand with a host of benefits, with the same survey reporting that 55% of Australians are “slightly” or “significantly” more productive when working from home. Other perks include satisfied staff, reduced overheads and access to a global talent pool.

Of course, handing employees location independence isn’t without its complexities. In order to reap the benefits, it’s essential to have a tactical remote management strategy in place. Whether you operate in-house and manage a team of remote workers, or work from home and manage an office based team, these tips can be applied to any scenario where face-to-face communication just doesn’t exist.

Build rapport

When communicating digitally it’s all too easy to be blunt and business oriented. In some cases, this is exactly how it should be. But it’s also critical to build rapport with every member of your team, regardless of their physical location. Remember, affinity can only be won by developing genuine, meaningful relationships with your staff. Yes, corporate talk is a given, but there’s also room for humanised communication. Gifs, emoticons and chatty language are a great way to convey casual camaraderie when emails are the dominant communication channel.

Use video

Did you know that over 50% of human communication is non-verbal? This means that when a professional relationship lacks visual clues it’s difficult to gauge reactions, judge moods, source feedback and so on.  Where possible, use video tools like Skype and Google hangouts to mimic the authenticity of a face-to-face conversation.

Define expectations

Avoid confusions and misunderstandings by clearly defining job roles, and ensuring remote workers have a crystal clear idea of what’s expected from them. As staff are not physically on-site it can sometimes be difficult to manage input. Eliminate performance ambiguity by investing in powerful workforce management software that can be used to schedule both on-site and remote employees. With intelligent time/attendance, team communication and leave/availability features, Ento makes rostering fast, smart and defined.   

Support an ‘open door’ policy

As you don’t have morning briefs, run ins at the coffee station and impromptu lunch dates to connect with remote workers, it’s important to establish an ‘open door’ communication policy. This gives your remote staff a chance to chat about anything on their minds, from small niggles to major company developments. We’d suggest allocating at least one hour per week to one on ones with keynote remote workers.    

Include and engage

Just because staff aren’t in sight, it doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. Stocked up on branded company stationary? Hook them up with a new set for their at-home office. Received a wine hamper as a ‘thank you’ gift from a client? Don’t forget to send them a bottle. Planning an office get together? Fire an invite their way.  It may seem like a ‘soft’ top, but creating an environment of inclusion and appreciation is a crucial part of securing loyal, motivated and highly productive staff.  

Keep career paths in mind

Satisfy and retain by actively supporting the career goals of your remote workers. Just like their office based counterparts they aspire for promotions, higher salaries and upskilling opportunities.

Whether you’re in retail, hospitality, finance or communications, a ‘by design’ remote workforce can seriously amp up performance levels.  

Article contributed by Alex Packett, Head of Community Engagement, Ento