Written by Benjamin Lee
Remote working, telecommuting and flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s workplace. Thanks to advancements in communication technology as well as changing mindsets, organizations now have the freedom to leverage on the talent of a truly global workforce.
From a recent study conducted by Forbes, it was determined that 50% of employees working in the United States have remote working roles or telecommute in some form of another. Along with this, a further 80 – 90% of employees surveyed reported that they would be interested in a telecommuting role in the future.
While this trend is not as popular in most Asian countries, the mindsets of a changing workforce means that managers must be prepared for the future. With a new generation of workers seeking greater work-life cohesion along with greater workplace flexibility, it goes without saying that remote-working and telecommuting is the way forward.
However, given the relative infancy of remote working and flexible work arrangements, managers and supervisors may find themselves struggling to engage and collaborate with remote team members.
In this article, we take a look at how managers can better prepare themselves to manage the workplace of the future.
True to their namesake, telecommuting or remote working employees are not physically present in the office.This lack of exposure and contact with other colleagues can on the long-term, lead to feelings of isolation and separation.
Unlike worksite-based employees, remote team members do not communicate regularly with their counterparts. Consequently, these employees feel disconnected from the organization as a whole and this will lead to declining levels of performance as well as disengagement.
To prevent this from happening, managers should ensure that they are readily available at all times and are able to quickly respond to their remote employees. Also, managers should encourage remote team members to stay connected with their worksite based colleagues to help improve workplace relations.
This fosters a sense of belonging and appreciation in remote employees which goes a long way towards improved employee engagement while also helping improve collaboration.
As a member of the leadership team, it is crucial that managers provide employees at all levels of the organization with a clear idea of the organization’s desired direction and goals. While worksite-based employees can be briefed face-to-face in the office regularly, this situation is different for employees that work remotely.
Remote-working employees do not have the same levels of access and visibility to the organization as their worksite-based counterparts. Further compounding this problem are managers who fail to understand this problem and as result tend to either leave remote employees with little-to-no guidance or obsessively micro-manage them to the point of exasperation.
Thus, managers should instead aim to provide employees with a clear and concise understanding of what their expectations along with both short and long-term goals that are reviewed on a regular basis.
This provides employees with a set direction which they can work towards along with various performance metrics which can be assessed by his/her supervisor.
Setting clear performance expectations eliminates confusion among rank-and-file employees which helps them better achieve their goals. Also, clear performance expectations provides managers with the visibility they need to better manage employees both remote and worksite based.
To do so, managers need a flexible HRM system that enables them to accurately assess the performance of employees who work off-site. IQDynamic’s HRM system comes packaged with a customizable competency matrix which enables managers to tailor an employee’s KPIs to match a set of desired criteria.
From here, managers will be able to conduct assessments on a regular basis to assess said employee’s performance. Thus ensuring that employees are given a firm understanding of what is expected of them.
Training is an often overlooked aspect in the management of telecommuting employees. Unfortunately, managers tend to make the assumption that good on-site employees will still be effective off-site.
This is far from the case and employees who did not receive training of any kind admitted that they often felt disengaged and disconnected. In stark contrast, employees who received regular training reported that they felt significantly more involved and engaged.
As a manager, you have responsibility to identify and target key aspects for training and improvement. IQDynamics’ HRM system is programmed to identify gaps in an employee’s training during assessments.
This feature is linked to the system’s learning and development module which recommends specific training programs which are meant to address these issues. From here, it can be seen how our HRM system enables managers to ensure that employees are armed with the knowledge they need to be effective.
As any manager would know, effective communication is a crucial part of managing both an employee relationships and performance. For the experienced manager, communicating effectively with onsite-based employees is a relatively simple task given their proximity within the workplace.
However, remote-working employees do not have the benefit of being based in the office and consequently the majority of their interactions with their superiors comes from web-based communication such as emails or calls.
This approach can seem to be impersonal and many of the nuances of human communication is lost in the medium of email or via a phone call. This can easily lead to misunderstandings and generate feelings of mistrust among remote working employees.
Further supporting this are the results of a Harvard Business Review study which noted that over 1,000 remote employees surveyed reported that they often felt “shunned” and “left out” by their colleagues. Of note, many remote employees also believed that they were the victims of a more pervasive and difficult form of office politics.
In response, HR professionals determined that one of the best ways of combating this was to establish regular video communications with their remote team members in order to better motivate and engage with them while also fostering a sense of camaraderie.
Video communications help ensure that all present members are better prepared for the meeting at hand which helps remote team members feel that their contributions are appreciated.
With changing hiring trends in the world and vast improvements in communication technology, both managers and HR professionals need to step up their game to meet this new challenge. With IQDynamics’, managers will be equipped with the tools they need to manage the workforce of the future.