Managing a Remote Workforce- Part Two
The past few years have seen an explosion in flexible remote work opportunities, with the recent pandemic accelerating this. Of course, long-term telecommuting is different from the crisis-related working-from-home that’s now widespread. However, businesses are quickly recognizing the benefits and opportunities for telework. Employees are embracing the life-work balance that is associated with remote work options, and employers are experiencing a widespread demand for flexible options, all increasing the likelihood that telework will remain the new normal.
Along with the implementation of a remote workforce comes the challenges of managing them. One potential problem can be productivity. While studies have shown that remote workers tend to be more productive than their co-located peers, consistency in productivity can suffer if not appropriately managed.
Combining Structured and Unstructured Working Hours
Contrary to the prevalent ideology that strictly structured task management equals productivity, more modern managers have realized that blending structured office hours and unstructured time can increase productivity and ingenuity.
Leaders should schedule set office hours for employees to be available to work on day-to-day tasks like checking emails, attending meetings, and other typical job-related activities. Take into consideration time zones and schedule these mandatory office hours to best suit the entire team. This type of scheduling facilitates productivity by allowing time for collaboration, having clear expectations for work times, and encourage team behaviors and bonding.
In addition to structured work hours, managers should allow remote workers time to explore new ideas and work on special projects. While it can be difficult at first to get used to the idea of allowing free time, and in fact, can strike you as counterproductive, unstructured work increases creative problem solving, ingenuity, and can inspire mutual trust and loyalty.
Communication and Clear Expectations
Another challenge to productivity is balancing communication- too much, and team members can feel micro-managed as if they are not trusted. Too little communication can make them feel alienated and unimportant. Managers should establish a daily team check to pass on important information, discuss priorities, assess progress on group projects, and a weekly individual check-in to provide feedback, one-on-one support, and evaluate progress on individually assigned tasks.
Communicating realistic productivity standards and expectations is key to achieving optimal productivity in your remote workers. After all, even the best employees can’t read minds, and it is impossible to be in constant contact with every member of your team, no matter if they are teleworking or collocated with you. Productivity goals should be communicated and assessed frequently to ensure employees have enough work to be engaged but not so much that they are overwhelmed.
Encourage Breaks and Adherence to Quitting Times
Employee burnout can be another barrier to consistent productivity. Workers in an office environment have more structure than their remote coworkers and typically take their breaks and have time to socialize with their coworkers, and when it is quitting time, they clock out and go home. When you work from home, your office is where you live, there is a lack of fundamental social interactions, and the lines between work and home life can blur.
Remote workers frequently report that they forget to take breaks and have trouble compartmentalizing life and work. Managers should encourage their remote workers to develop healthy boundaries between work and home life. Some ways to support this include:
- Modeling behavior – Many remote team managers work remotely themselves, at least some of the time. Managers should practice the behaviors they want to boost in their employees. Be sure you are imposing work-life boundaries on your own day as well. If your employees see that you are sending emails after the established working hours, they may feel like it is okay and even necessary to be “always on call” as well.
- Use time-tracking programs – Time tracking programs can increase productivity by not only letting you know what your employees are doing and when, but it can also help employees understand when to quit working. The act of clocking out can assist in reinforcing that work-life barrier.
Outsourcing for your remote teams with Liberty Source gives your business the benefits of teleworking while also ensuring skilled leaders manage that team. Liberty Source has a track record for efficiently managing remote teams and increasing productivity.
Liberty Source has a unique workforce consisting of military spouses who experience frequent moves. Liberty Source has long utilized teleworking to retain and hire the best-qualified employees, giving us the expertise needed to maintain productivity during the recent pandemic and beyond.