There is no better way to communicate and collaborate with a group of people than by being in the same room. But, the era of companies operating under the same roof is slipping quickly out of view as more enterprises embrace mobile, remote workforces.
According to a recent Gallup article, 43% of employees work remotely at least part of the time. Plus, these workers want flexible work environments and the ability to choose their own hours. It’s true that managing a remote workforce presents a unique set of challenges. Employees are disconnected by space and strewn out across time zones, requiring a change in management for them to succeed.
So, here are five tips on how to head off mobile team hurdles before they become too big an obstacle.
- Equip them with the right tools (and use them)
The cloud-based enterprise app market is crowded and overwhelming. There seems to be an infinite number of chat apps, productivity suites, file sharing tools, and the list goes on. To empower your mobile workforce, you must equip them with tools they will enjoy using.
Prioritize simplicity and user design that will drive engagement. The fewer apps employees need to learn, the more likely they will be to use them. Avoid doubling up on apps that serve the same function. Make sure to support your workforce with proper product training and instruction so they understand how to get the most out of the tools you provide. Finally, don’t be afraid to switch things up, if things aren’t working. Your employees will appreciate the time and care you put into equipping them with the right tools for your business.
- Be consistent
One perk of being a remote worker can be the opportunity to have a flexible schedule. As a manager, be sure to spell out expectations for your mobile employees up front. If there are certain meeting times or hours they need to be online, lay those out early and stick to them. If the flow of your organization is more “just get things done,” then set deadlines and put them on a calendar for the whole team to see. Employees will be more engaged if they hear from or see their manager and/or colleagues on a regular basis. Set up weekly or bi-weekly calls to catch up, and make sure the entire team is still on the same page. Video calls are almost always favorable over phone calls!
- Prioritize communication
Even the best communicators can fall to the challenges of managing a remote workforce. Get ready to make overcommunication the new normal. That means breaking down silos and increasing visibility. People work better when they see evidence that their piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture. There is no better way to see the big picture than to foster successful communication in the workplace and collaboration among team members.
Sometimes, the answer is document sharing. Sometimes, it’s connecting people over a calendar so that tasks are simply made visible to the whole group. Sometimes, it’s just prioritizing regular check-ins to see how the team is doing and offer up encouragement or assistance. When mobile employees feel like they are in the loop, they are more likely to deliver and meet or exceed expectations.
- Empower your team to make decisions
Just because your remote employees are working independently, doesn’t mean they feel empowered to make decisions. As teams are dispersed, it can be hard for individuals to move projects forward. As a manager, look for remote employees who you feel comfortable training up to be leaders. These leaders have the ability to see the bigger picture, take initiative, and solve problems. Instill some confidence in your leaders to make their own decisions, within reason, and watch them take action to move your business forward.
- Create an inclusive company culture
It’s easy for those who work remotely to feel disconnected from their colleagues and team members. And, as your remote employee numbers grow, those feelings will continue to manifest. Create a company culture that supports relationship growth between remote employees. Try cultivating conversations that fall outside normal work chatter. You may be surprised what personalities start to shine. Suddenly your straight-laced, all business employee feels comfortable to crack a joke and your employees begin to connect on a deeper level. An inclusive environment does more than just foster good feelings. That kind of environment actually converts into happy employees, and happier employees are more productive employees (12% to 20% more productive, to be exact). Remember, your mobile workforce is not an extra add-on to your company, they are an integral part of it and should be treated that way.
If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels when it comes to managing your remote employees, you’re not alone. However, with a shift in your mindset and application of these practices, you’ll be well on your way to a happy and engaged remote workforce.
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