The Highs and Lows of Managing a Remote Workforce

Friday, May 12, 2023

While there are financial benefits to going remote, there are also unexpected considerations you must make. If you don’t plan ahead, you may end up making remote managing mistakes that can be detrimental in the long run.

Article 4 Minutes
The Highs and Lows of Managing a Remote Workforce

Remote employees are more commonplace now than ever, especially in large corporations that can afford to sustain a remote workforce. A staggering 36.2 million people residing in the United States are expected to work remotely by 2025.

While there are financial benefits to going remote, there are also unexpected considerations you must make. If you don’t plan ahead, you may end up making remote managing mistakes that can be detrimental in the long run.

However it’s not only possible to successfully manage a remote workforce, but it’s also advantageous and potentially necessary to do so if you want to recruit and retain top talent. Enterprise management has the resources to manage remote staff successfully. Just be prepared for the highs and lows that come along with this shift.

Gaining employee productivity

A lack of commute and in-office distractions can lead to increased employee productivity. However, employees and management tend to disagree on remote productivity standards. Management typically doesn’t account for commutes and other distractions when gauging virtual employee productivity.

However, you can practice forward-thinking remote management to keep employees happy and productive. Acknowledge their need for time away from the desk, even if it’s a home office desk or cafe table. Take into consideration the time they would normally spend commuting and connecting with other team members.

Above all, track remote employee productivity in a respectful way, including disclosing what types of monitoring tools you are using. Keep a keen eye on output levels and time spent, but don’t micromanage employees. They’ll feel suffocated if each keystroke is monitored or if regular breaks aren’t taken into account. Instead, track time and compare that to results, allowing management to keep tabs on how remote work is impacting the bottom line. Forgo remote privacy concerns and allow employees the autonomy to track their own time.

Ensuring remote security

There are security concerns for remote work in addition to employees’ concerns about invasion of privacy from the company. You also have to be aware of security levels when employees are working from home. Remote security best practices should be followed, such as:

  • Employee education on phishing scams
  • Training on new tech
  • Provided devices with security provisions installed
  • Bans on public Wi-Fi use

If you don’t ban public Wi-Fi use, you could be exposing your remote employees — and your sensitive corporate data — to security threats. Make sure your employees are at least operating on a secure, encrypted connection when doing work.

Keeping remote employees healthy

While there are fewer in-office dangers for a remote workforce, there are unique health concerns when working from home. Remote employees may be more prone to isolation, loneliness, distractions, boredom, burnout and chronic pain. Luckily, if you provide benefits for your remote employees you can ensure that they have the healthcare resources they need to thrive.

Offer comprehensive health insurance coverage, just as you would for in-office employees. Provide ergonomic home office supplies and furniture when possible. Also encourage frequent breaks, as well as in-person social events if remote workers are close enough together. If not, promote virtual get-togethers via online channels like Slack or Zoom. Mental well-being is just as important in reducing employee burnout, so operate your remote workforce with compassion.

Learn more: Red Flags in the Workplace: How to Spot Mental Health Problems

Fostering ethical leadership

It’s always important to operate in an ethical manner when managing a workforce. Remote work is no exception, but it comes with unique considerations. Remote leadership ethics aren’t too different from in-office leadership ethics, but they may look a bit different. For instance, open, honest and horizontal communication will occur through mediated channels, but it should still be a priority to make your remote employees feel heard and involved.

Regular one-on-one meetings can boost employee engagement , even when they aren’t physically meeting with you. Leadership should make it a point to at least touch base with all employees in virtual town halls on a semi-regular basis. Keep open and honest, and your workforce will respond favorably.

You should also prioritize accessibility considerations. A remote workforce can — and should — also be a diverse workforce. Make it a habit to survey employees about what they need from the company to do their best work. This may be less frequent video calls or even speech-to-text technology. Asking them is the best way to figure out their needs.

Learning from mistakes

You can be as prepared as possible to manage a remote workforce, but you will inevitably make mistakes. Some of the most common remote managerial mistakes include forgoing the tips outlined above, such as:

  • Micromanaging your remote team
  • Not checking in with virtual employees
  • Failing to build company culture and trust

As long as you are aware of your shortcomings, you can be transparent with your remote workforce. Let them know the steps you are taking to improve the way your remote team operates and follow up along the way when you put these steps into action. Above all, remember that your remote employees are humans first and employees second. This will guide you to a productive, happy, well-managed and productive remote workforce.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, politics, and more. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected]


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