Business Administration: Managing a Remote Workforce

Today’s workforce is changing as more employees opt to work from home. In fact, about 10 percent of employees regularly work from home according to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. These workers utilize flex time and create their own schedule to better fit their busy lifestyle, forcing managers to oversee an increasingly remote workforce. Distributed work management has created a learning curve for managers, who must adapt to this work environment change across various industries. Understanding the inherent dynamics of a remote workforce can ensure you maximize its effectiveness and utilize it efficiently, helping to establish a productive work environment for all employees. Learn about getting a Business Administration Degree Online.

“The ‘workplace away from the workplace’ imposes a different set of responsibilities on the manager. Beyond the employee’s skills and experiences, companies still need to connect with employees in an effort to improve communication and collaboration through team building,” said Karen Penler, Assistant Professor of Accounting and Chair of the Business Division at Notre Dame College.

Tips to Managerial Success

A remote or flex work schedule is highly valued by employees; however, it can present some real challenges to managers who aren’t experienced with managing remote workers. Distributed work management requires tremendous attention to detail, organization, communication and project management to be effective in today’s economy. Managers can follow these guidelines for success leading a remote workforce:

  • Set clear expectations and measurable goals: The remote workforce is often highly results-oriented and is dependent on employees taking the initiative to complete tasks and set new achievement benchmarks. While the work environment is loose, processes should be closely followed to maintain effective operations and a smooth workflow. Set clear expectations early on so your employees are equipped to meet organizational demands. Managers should also define measurable goals so you can monitor your employees’ day-to-day progress and activities. Clearly define goals to encourage high levels of employee achievement.
  • Establish open lines of communication: Remote workers can often feel they are on their own island when communication lines with managers and co-workers are limited or cut off. Project details and deadlines can get lost or overlooked with poor communication. Establish and encourage dynamic communication among all team members so project details are clearly stated and understood. Schedule regular calls and face-to-face meetings to keep all team members engaged and productive.
  • Open up your offices: Encourage employees to use office space for client meetings or brainstorming sessions so they feel fully engaged and connected to your company and its work environment.
  • Support team building efforts: Facilitate teamwork by supporting a strong corporate culture among your department’s team members. Host offsite gatherings or create networking events so remote employees can connect to one another as well as other employees in the home office.

Establishing the 3 T’s

As a manager, trust, teamwork and trackability are essential when establishing a productive remote workforce that will produce optimal results. Establish the 3 T’s with your displaced workforce before you send them home.

Trust: As a manager, you must establish a culture of trust among your employees. You should trust that your employees are being productive when working away from the office. Your employees should feel they are trusted to do their job effectively while out of the watchful eye of management.

Teamwork: A company’s success often lies in the working relationships of its employees. It can be difficult to maintain a team atmosphere when employees are working remotely. However, keeping team members engaged with each other and working in a cohesive manner is essential to maintaining the effectiveness of a flex schedule and also keeps employees on task and on deadline.

Trackability: Creating a system to track tasks, workload and deadlines is key in distributed work management. Project management sites help to ensure all team members are aware of the status of a project at all times. And, as a manager, project management sites give you access to an employee’s workload and help you manage work flow.

Sustaining a remote workforce is achievable for managers at all levels of experience. Managers must work to keep all employees connected to the company’s overall mission statement.

“The win-win of the flex schedule only works when the outcomes meet those expected in the traditional work environment,” said Karen. “Managing a flexible workplace requires the manager to keep all team members engaged while implementing systems that manage employee workloads. Making the decision to offer a flexible workplace must include performance parameters and equitable outcomes that are fair, consistent and sustainable.”

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