Managers need to be aware now more than ever how remote work may create feelings of isolation among team members. At most organizations, daily organizational planning focuses on the necessary operational responses to ensure business continuity. There are specific guidelines on ensuring employees get the requisite support to tackle every crisis and be effective and productive for continuity. These guidelines are complementary to alleviating the biggest concerns of outsourcing.
First, how can remote employees be managed effectively?
As a manager, you should use both direct conversation and indirect observations to get visibility into employees’ challenges and concerns. Use every opportunity to make clear to employees that you support and care for them. Even if you don’t have an expensive set of technology and collaborative tools available, you can equip employees to function effectively when remote.
Ensure employees have the technology they need to succeed, which may be more than just a mobile phone and laptop; for example, if you expect employees to attend virtual meetings, do they have good cameras? Don’t just assume that people know how to operate with virtual communications or are comfortable in that environment. Acknowledge that virtual communications are different and won’t be perfect but should still be professional and respectful to others. Be mindful that virtual communications may be less comfortable and effective for some, so coach employees on effective virtual communication.
Two-way dialogue between managers and employees ensures that communication helps rather than hurts engagement. Employees’ understanding of the organization’s decisions and their implications is far more important for a change initiative than employees “liking” the change. Hence, two-way communication with managers and peers provides employees with the information and perspective they need and enables equal voice for any incoming change in the way the system of outsourcing will go.
When working with remote teams, it is important to allow flexible hours to maintain consistency; although a concrete plan is a must, you should be open to adjusting strategies as needed. Whether your employees choose to put in their hours in the morning or evening shouldn’t matter as long as the work gets completed and is of high quality.
What works in the office may not work remotely, so instead of lengthy meetings, have short virtual huddles. You can apply this thinking to team resourcing, scheduling, and action planning.
Finally, remote employees must be managed effectively through constant communication because it keeps them apprised of deadlines, available resources, work-related challenges, and managers’ expectations, including work schedules.
The most successful outsourcing managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating. Managers should also look for opportunities to celebrate the same work milestones that would be celebrated in the office; this can make remote employees communicate clearly and meeting goals and deadlines, staying productive, and doing their job effectively.