June 8th, 2016

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We have never had so many options as to where and when we work, as we do today. The number of businesses spreading themselves across locations and timezones is steadily rising, as is the likelihood of engaging with international customers.

The term ‘Mobile’ or ‘Remote’ worker refers to employees that have flexible working arrangements as a direct result of widely dispersed business structures. Remote workers can seem like a bit of a blurred line between an employee and a contractor in terms of where they work, how they manage their time and how they perceive their role in the business.

Remote workers pose a new kind of challenge to managers, who will need to look specifically at how they plan to engage and include these people. There is a real opportunity to create an environment where remote workers feel that they are getting ‘the best of both worlds’. However, the flipside involves looking at how to avoid the opposite- employees that feel left out and unsupported.

The same sensitivity to remote employees’ needs can (and should) be easily applied to any contractors working for a business – being a contractor but feeling like an employee is a little thing but can make a huge difference in morale, productivity, loyalty and the overall positive culture of your business.

That being said, just because remote workers can be a great way to grow geographically, doesn’t mean workplace spread is for everyone. Successfully managing remote workers will be hugely reliant on the business in question having a culture of flexibility and trust – which is not an easy feat. Those that can shift from measuring inputs to measuring outputs will be the ones that reap the benefits of remote workers (an empowered workforce, renting smaller office spaces and wider geographic reach to customers, to name a few). Unilever is a great example of a company that manages remote workers really well through what they call ‘Agile Working’. And if a huge multinational can do it there is certainly no excuse for SME’s!

Top tips for engaging your remote workers:

  • Get the right person for the job– Working remotely is not everyone’s cup of tea. When hiring someone to work remotely you should look for attributes like enjoying a high level autonomy, having access to a productive place to work from and a good grasp of the collaborative technology that your business makes use of.
  • Its all about communication– Having a regular catch up should be prioritised and committed to, at HR Shop this takes the form of a weekly slot in our diaries. Timely responses and encouraging feedback is even more important than usual to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Technology is your best friend– utilising relevant technology can make communication much easier, reducing the chance of remote workers feeling distanced and unsupported.
  • Make sure you are measuring what is important– as a manager you will need to be able to trust your remote worker will get the job done, as you won’t be able to oversee the time they are putting in. This will also mean you need to find the best way to measure the outputs that are delivered.
  • Be open to adjusting your management style– for companies used to overseeing the entire process, managing remote workers will be a huge shift in thinking, as control is relinquished in exchange for flexibility. Is a flexible working arrangement a realistic fit within your business culture?
  • Maximise the benefits– Working remotely can have a huge impact on staff morale due to the implicit sense of freedom and trust. Make sure you leverage this flexibility by encouraging staff to be creative in finding a solution- a commodity highly sought after by Generation Z, Y and beyond.
  • Minimise the negatives– The most obvious byproduct of having flexible working arrangements is not having everyone in the same place at the same time – which can make fostering an inclusive, cohesive culture particularly difficult. Finding ways to get everyone in one room through social activities is a great way to counteract the isolation of working remotely. At the end of the day you can’t beat face to face communication.

To find out whether you could be doing more to engage remote workers in your business flick me an email.


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