Telecommuting and Mobile Workforces – how to effectively manage a team remotely

Over the past few years, continuous developments in technology have led to an increase in the number of remotely managed workforces.

Have you noticed?

Has checking Skype for Business become an essential way of determining whether a colleague is working remotely or not? If so, this is an example of telecommuting, a form of communication through technology, such as the internet, email, and telephone, which has helped to make working remotely possible.

Research conducted in 2015 by YouGov UK and Omnibus Research revealed that 54% of UK office workers already had the ability to work remotely, demonstrating just how possible telecommuting has made working remotely for UK office workers. Of this 54%, 30% thought they were more productive when working remotely, whilst only 17% believed they were less efficient. Fast forward 5 years to 2020, and this figure is forecast to expand to 50% of the entire UK workforce, showing that the number of telecommuters will only continue to increase, along with the number of mobile workforces!

Although the thought of being able to work from the comfort of their sofa, or rarely having to step into an office, might excite an employee, telecommuting and mobile workforces can either support or challenge a manager in their attempt to effectively manage their team. Technological advances have enabled managers to communicate with their remote or mobile team nearly as quickly and as easily as if they were sitting at the desk next to them. However, this has led to an overreliance on IT and technology to communicate, an inability to track performance metrics, such as; productivity, effectiveness, and utilisation, and a reduction in the visibility of the team.

Regardless of the geographical location of the manager, and whether a team is mobile or telecommutes, the key to effective management is to remain in control and actively manage the team. Reporting, short interval control, and regular reviews are just a few ways a manager can remain in control and actively manage their team. Relevant and up-to-date reporting allows managers to keep track of each team member’s performance. The use of short interval control, by checking in with each team member on a regular basis to see how they are getting on, is significant to remaining in control. This is because it increases visibility of each team member and provides managers with the opportunity to discuss their performance. Regular reviews including the whole team, through a conference call for example, should be carried out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to further overcome these challenges. This also gives managers a chance to pick up on any issues which have been, or could be, experienced by their team. These issues should be logged in an issue log, to track the number of times they have been faced, along with SMART actions to ensure the same issues do not occur again. During these reviews, managers should set clear expectations of their team and follow-up appropriately to check the actions are being completed effectively.

By implementing these simple measures, managers will see an improvement in the operational performance of their remote or mobile workforce, which will have a positive consequence on the company’s bottom line.