The Barry University MBA in Management online program prepares graduates to manage employees in a variety of settings. One of those settings — remote work, or telecommuting — is becoming increasingly mainstream, with the coronavirus pandemic requiring broad swaths of the working populace to keep doing their jobs while sheltering at home.
In the days before the pandemic, 50% of the workforce was in some sort of telecommuting role as of 2019, and 80 to 90% of employees expressed a desire to work remotely at least part of the time, according to the Global Workplace Analytics study. In addition, 66% of companies allowed remote work and 16% were fully remote, and among remote workers, 85% say the choice was their decision, according to Talent LMS. Remote work has been shown by a Stanford University study to improve productivity the equivalent of a full day’s work each week. Employees between 25 and 44 years of age composed 70% of remote workers, so it stands to reason that the percentage of these workers will increase over time, not only as a matter of employee preference but also as a by-product of the work-from-home regimens necessitated by the pandemic.
Telecommuters want the flexibility to make their own hours and the autonomy to work with less supervision, and this can make managing them a challenge. Yet remote work also offers companies many benefits, including greater employee retention, reduced costs, reduced worker stress, and even improvements in the talent pool and productivity. Here are five suggestions for managing remote workers:
- Access and transparency. Although your remote workers cannot see you across the hallway, they do not want to feel a sense of distance when they work with you. Communicate with them frequently; make yourself available through email, instant messaging and phone. When they contact you, respond in as timely a manner as possible to provide the same feeling of connectivity that your in-office employees enjoy. Schedule regular videoconference updates and coaching sessions. Also consider using collaborative software appropriate to your industry in order to foster teamwork. Technology has made it possible for remote workers to be every bit the key team players that in-office workers are, but beware resentment from in-office staff. Make sure your telecommuters feel secure in their jobs and are not stigmatized or marginalized.
- Set expectations for everyone involved. Many employees today are still not accustomed to working closely with remote workers. Some doubt whether they can trust remote workers to accomplish tasks as efficiently as they would in person. For remote workers to perform effectively, their teammates must understand that they are held accountable to the same expectations as in-office personnel and have the necessary access to company resources to do their jobs. Communicate clear expectations for how in-office personnel and remote workers are to collaborate. Ensure that your remote workers know exactly what is expected in terms of meetings, work sharing, deliverables and deadlines.
- Create an inclusive environment. In small groups, pair remote workers with in-office workers to create tighter working relationships. This avoids the feeling of “us and them” that can exist in settings with combined workforces. Establish communication points of contact and backup plans so that people can always get the information they need, when they need it. Conduct meetings using videoconferencing equipment, so that all employees have a seat at the table. Before holiday parties and corporate events, have a videoconferencing meeting with the remote employees to celebrate the occasion.
- Focus on objectives, not activity. When you manage in-office employees, you can see that they are working, and that provides assurance that deadlines will be met and projects successfully completed. There can be some anxiety in adjusting to working with remote staff, as you will not always know when they are working. A focus on goals, rather than activity, for both in-office and telecommuting personnel, will alleviate this understandable anxiety.
- Invest in technology. Technology is what allows remote workers to be effective, but hardware and software must be current, maintained and reliable, and understood by all parties. Give remote employees the training they need to feel comfortable with the tools they will be using, and support them with IT resources so that systems are dependable and quickly restored if they falter.
The remote work trend trajectory has been steadily rising, with the recent global pandemic causing an abrupt shift in the number of working professionals doing their jobs from home. When the trend levels off and life returns to a new normal, many managers may have more subordinates outside of the office than in the office. Managers with the training to successfully incorporate telecommuters into their teams will have substantial advantages in getting hired and promoted. That training is now available in an MBA in Management online program.
Learn more about Barry University’s online MBA in Management program.