Five ways to manage a remote workforce effectively

As we move out of the pandemic, businesses are considering different options when it comes to migrating back to the office. Many, if not ditching the office altogether, are considering a mixture of home and office working for the long term.

Home working is certainly popular with staff, who enjoy the flexibility that it gives, and the increased free time they can spend with their families and friends. But does it work for businesses too? Or does it affect productivity and reduce the creativity and culture that you spent years building up pre-pandemic?

I think it is possible to make remote working work for everyone in the right business scenario and context. In fact, I have clients whose teams have been regularly beating their targets in a remote environment. But it doesn’t happen by itself. Here are five things that need to happen to manage a remote workforce effectively:

1. You have to be a brilliant manager and leader

This means doing all of the things you should have been doing when you were working face-to-face full-time! You need great communication that keeps the business goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) at the forefront of everyone’s minds – as well as regular one-to-one meetings to check against those goals and keep on top of those KPIs. All of this can be done online if you make an effort to step-up your virtual events; I’ve seen engagement rise in businesses with good managers, with highly engaged people who enjoy the benefits of remote working.

2. Keep your online meetings focused

Remember that people need regular screen breaks, and long online meetings can cause screen fatigue. Make your online meetings short, sharp and focused. Make sure team leaders know how to utilise the tech to keep meetings well managed – such as using the hands-up function so people don’t talk over each other, and breakout areas to get ideas going.

Shorter meetings mean you can have them more frequently. A quick online check-in every morning only needs to take a few minutes. I’ve seen businesses being creative by scheduling remote ‘water cooler’ chats to encourage different people across the business to interact. Structuring virtual sessions like this are important to ensure that people are contacted on a regular basis.

3. Have a strong wellbeing agenda

The pandemic has increased focus on staff wellbeing; companies are putting much more effort into this area to keep their staff happy and working well. Part of that is regular, frequent contact and being flexible around working arrangements, so that people can spend less time commuting and more time with their families – while still delivering their KPIs for the business.

4. Look after new starters

Make sure you have a clear structure when onboarding new staff that ensures they feel part of the team. It’s vital to maintain a high level of contact in those first weeks, with weekly check-ins, introductory meetings and all the other induction processes that would normally happen face-to-face.

 5. Make the ‘face-to-face’ days count

While core people management activities – catch-ups and one-to-ones – can work well on an online call, there are some things that work better when people are together in a room. Big business events that bring people together, such as end-of-year celebrations and all-staff meetings, should be done face-to-face. Similarly, more difficult announcements such as restructures, or where there are relational issues that need resolving, should ideally be done in person.

You don’t need to have permanent office space to meet in person. If you’re considering how to manage a remote workforce, you need to be strategic about what you do online and what you do in person – and make sure those face-to-face meetings count.

Do you have a people plan to make a remote or hybrid working pattern succeed in your business? Find out more about how our experienced People Directors work with businesses to create happy, productive teams by calling 020 3633 6830.

Shaun Ohara

Shaun O’Hara, People Director

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