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Many organisations now operate cross border teams and projects. Consequently many employees’ managers are not located in the same office. Sometimes it’s not even in the same country or continent. Furthermore many organisations are facing growing numbers of employee requesting flexible working including the ability to work from home regularly. With distant employees and busy schedules it will become a real possibility that in some cases these remote workers be “out of sight and out of mind”

A recent survey by the TUC found that half a million more people are working from home than in 2007. The report urged employers to “chill out over remote working”. The TUC report suggest that employers benefit from increased productivity, retain talented staff and supports employees who are carers or disabled. A study conducted by Stanford University suggests that working from home on one or two days a week is ideal for productivity.

The down side is that unless carefully managed remote office or home working can lead to less interactions between employee, other team members and manager or, even worse, situations where the only time an employee speaks to their manager is at annual appraisal time.

Many home workers suffer from mistrust by their managers and fellow team members who fear that working from home is somehow a big skive. By carefully planning the remote or home working can be mutually beneficial, here’s how.

Working smarter

Whist there will, no doubt, be a few employees who will “skive off” the reality is that many will start earlier and work longer missing lunch breaks and actually being more productive. The challenge for managers is to have the same finger on the pulse of these team members as they would have had, had the individuals been in the office around them.

Hot tips for remote working

Communication, Communication, Communication. The manager, in my view, will need to build a strong personal relationship with the individuals to build trust and rapport. The manager will need assurance that the work is getting done. The employee needs to know that they are trusted and that their work is still valued.

  • Communication. Talking to your remote workers is more important than ever. Be in regular contact with them on work and non-work issues. Build rapport with individuals so that a telephone call is a genuine interaction rather than an “I’m checking your working” call.
  • Communication. I’ve written before about the role of regular one to ones (normally monthly). In a remote working situation they are an important point of regular contact where work issues can be discussed, In fact, they may need to be more frequent.
  • Communication. Hold regular team or project meetings to ensure that everyone is fully involved and up to speed on issues and progress. With home workers having regular full team meetings when they are back in the office can help to enforce the team spirit and interactions with other team members.
  • Use the technology to full advantage so “on line” meetings, video telephone calls and file sharing are going to be really useful.

Ensuring the work gets done

The manager will need to move focus away from how long have you been at the desk or PC to an outputs and achievements approach. Whether the employee is working in a remote office or working from home it’s important to establish with them clear objectives and outputs. The outputs may need to have short term timescales with frequent reviews of progress to clearly establish a culture of monitoring and review that enables the manager and employee to feel comfortable with the working methodology.

Remote working in any form does not have to mean out of sight and out of mind. Managers can act proactively to ensure team and individual effectiveness.

What are your tips for making remote working effective for organisations? Please leave a comment below.

Please contact Alan to find out how he can help your managers and teams work effectively together.

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