Alistair Jaruga, Head of SMB Sales at Daisy Group, shares his six tips to managing a remote workforce.
Working from home can be beneficial for both employer and employee, and for many, flexible working is a major determining factor in the job application process. With increasing child care costs, not everybody can afford to send their child to nursery, so working from home may be the only way they can secure an income.
Likewise, having remote workers puts less financial strain on start-ups who can save money on vital business resources which they would otherwise be obliged to purchase. Office space alone is a costly investment.
However, sometimes the problems caused by having a home working or remote team are overlooked. Too often people forget that they still have a workforce to control, and when the workforce is scattered around the country, and potentially even the world, executing an effective authoritative role is no mean feat.
Take note of the five top tips below and you should see the results in no time.
1. Put time and effort into recruiting the right people
Putting extra time and consideration into the recruitment stage will ultimately save you time and money further down the line. Home workers need to be self-motivated, dedicated and hard working so making sure the candidate fits the bill is vital. The worst thing that could happen would be to recruit someone who you are paying by the hour to lounge on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle with their Blackberry in one hand and a pack of Hobnobs in the other. Get to know your employees on a personal level too to get a feel for their personality and strengths. Suggest an initial relaxed business meeting over lunch where you can get to understand how one another operates.
2. Schedule weekly video conferences
Having regular face-to-face employee interaction is a vital part of any business, but when your workforce works from home, this isn’t always possible. And let’s face it, it’s not really acceptable to turn up at their house unannounced. So a good idea is to schedule weekly video conferencing calls with your employees. Software such as Skype or GoToMeeting allows for free group conversations, so if you do have a scattered team, it’s possible for you all to unite weekly to catch up and provide mutual support.
3. Embrace social media
Ditch formal communication tools such as phone and email where you can and embrace social media platforms to develop an instantaneous and more personal dialogue with your workforce. Most networks are geared up for business use. Facebook, for example, allows most files to be attached to private messages meaning the relay of information can be a speedier process. Alternatively, look at internal social media platforms like Yammer in order to communicate freely and privately.
4. Wear lots of different hats
Even though your team works from home, that’s not to say that the right procedures don’t need to be in place. This means pushing your executive role to one side and putting yourself in the shoes of metaphorical HR and IT departments. You need to take into consideration the necessary safety and security procedures, whether that be alerting your employees to the correct seating position to adopt or supplying them with the latest anti-virus software.
5. Trust your staff and allow them some autonomy
As well as geographical space, your employees also need some psychological distance. This can be difficult as it means placing your complete trust and livelihood in the hands of your staff. However, if employees feel trusted it will improve their confidence and boost their work ethic. Frequent unnecessary emails and calls checking up on them will only make them feel inadequate and could potentially result in them underperforming – something that neither of you wants.
Work on honing your management style to a level that will be respected by your employees. The Alan Sugar approach simply won’t work on those working from the comfort of their own home.