06:00 PM

Managing a Remote Workforce

DALLAS – September 12, 2013 – The face of the workforce is changing, and with a projected 1.5 billion global remote workers by 2014, it’s safe to say the 9-5 desk-bound days are over. This shift is making employers ask the question, “How can I manage my remote employees?”

A new survey from Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace, found that U.S. businesspeople do believe managing at a distance works – but nearly half (49 percent) say it’s an art that needs special training. Several factors are at play - trust issues remain high as 54 percent of respondents say that management is worried about how remote workers spend their time. Sixty-seven percent of management thinks it slows junior employee development, while one-third says that it actually helps them become responsible faster.

Work/life balance expert Cali Yost notes this knowledge gap, pointing out that 82% of full-time U.S. workers say they have some form of informal or formal flexibility in how, when or where they work, but only 17 percent of employers train their people how to use it. “In a world without clocks and walls to tell us where work ends and the other parts of our life begin,” Yost says, “’when’ we are going to accomplish a particular action or priority is important. But you also have to focus on the ‘where’ and ‘how.’”

What’s the solution to this disconnect? Flexible working is not going away, and management must adapt. Here are rules from Regus for the effective management of a remote workforce:

Rule 1: Create an atmosphere of trust and responsibility

There is no point in creating virtual teams and then being worried about whether they will get on with their work, that you micromanage them. Set up a granular, but easy to use micro-reporting system so they can effectively monitor themselves. 

Rule 2: Establish clear goals and measure on outputs

Managers need to learn to manage goals and outcomes, not tasks.  Clearly establish what those goals are vital and analyze which elements of process (‘how an outcome is achieved’) are most important.

Rule 3: Provide professional local/flexible workspace

Research has shown that homeworking is often not conducive to productive working because of disturbances, distractions and lack of professional working facilities. Providing staff with access to drop-in professional workspace, close to their home or their itinerary, provides them with the combination of locality and professional working environment. 

Rule 4: Ensure the technology platform is robust

Virtual workers are dependent on technology, so it is essential that the technology you provide is easy to use, and is quick, reliable and robust.  Encourage the use of video conferencing so that people are not just remote voices to one another, but can see each other.

Rule 5: Actively discuss professional development

Managerial time should be regularly scheduled to discuss staff progress and performance.  This replaces the complimentary or disciplinary conversations that can more easily take place ad hoc in a fixed office.  Such conversations give virtual staff the assurance that their professional development is being taken seriously and that they are not ‘out of sight, out of mind’.