Managers and staff need new ways of working together even when they’re working apart. Here’s how you can manage remote workers.
1. It’s all about time
Set deadlines. Book phone calls and chats using instant messenger (IM) software. Set yourself a reminder.
2. Know your team
Make sure you spend some face-to-face time with your team, both at work and informally.
3. Share documents
Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010 (the new name for Microsoft Office Groove) makes it easy to share documents over the internet and for remote teams to collaborate.
Find ways to monitor and track work that people are doing. This will build trust and replace the more informal, face-to-face supervision.
5. Delegate effectively
Set objectives that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
6. Respect people’s personal time
Don’t fall into the trap of treating remote workers as if they were on call 24/7 simply because you can contact them outside ‘normal’ office hours.
7. Take pictures
Post pictures of your team members or people on a conference on a website or pin board so that you can visualize people when you talk to them.
In an office, you can see when someone is upset, angry, or bored. When they’re on the end of a telephone, you need to listen actively and ask questions to find out how they’re doing.
9. Trust and be trusted
Trust builds when people do what they say they are going to do. As a boss, you need to set the highest standards of consistency and reliability. When you say you’re going to do something, do it.
10. Take turns
Let other people run meetings occasionally.
11. Get objective feedback
Use 360-degree appraisals (consider including employees’ families) and customer or peer surveys to make sure your virtual team is working well.
12. Keep a schedule
Use Microsoft Outlook calendar feature to book meetings and share your schedule with your team (and vice versa).
13. Be a role model
Set an example with your own punctuality, commitment, reliability and availability.
14. Give recognition
It costs nothing to write a thank you note or to give praise where it is due. Recognition is a powerful motivator.
15. Change your management style
Switch from managing by input (time in the office) to managing by output (goals met).
16. Avoid second-class citizens
Once you’ve proven the concept, everybody should get a chance to work flexibly (unless their job prevents it). Don’t give one person a notebook while chaining a colleague to their desk.
Train managers and employees about the challenges and techniques of flexible working. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to do it well – they don’t. Individuals may need extra help with, say, writing reports or using IT.
18. Don’t isolate people
Encourage regular visits to the main workplace, include flexible workers in company social events; and have more of those. Put procedures in place to monitor for stress and counteract it.
Many remote and home workers use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, or using the internet as a telephone connection). Many laptops include a built-in webcam that makes it easier to do video conferencing.