How To Manage Staff Who Work Remotely

Technology makes it easier to manage staff in multiple locations, but that doesn't mean it's a set-and-forget affair. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

Lifehacker's Simplifying Small Business series of tips is presented by Vodafone.

See more on how Vodafone Red Business plans can help set your business free.

Schedule regular meetings to discuss issues

The trickiest part of remote working isn't the technology you need -- it's the processes involved. Remote staff can easily feel disconnected from what's happening in the main business. While the ability to stay in touch via phone, chat apps, text and video calls can ease that burden, you have to make sure that contact is maintained regularly.

As a manager, schedule regular meetings with remote staff, and honour those commitments -- don't make them the first thing you dump when your calendar starts becoming crowded. That ensures that everyone stays up-to-date and any issues that arise can be dealt with promptly.

Have backup options for connectivity

Remote staff will be highly reliant on their internet connection, so make sure there's an additional option if the main connection experiences any problems. That won't always be under your control -- any damage to the cabling between your business premises and the nearest exchange can result in you being cut off, as can problems at the exchange itself.

A prepaid mobile broadband account is one easy option that doesn't cost a lot to set up. If your staff regularly travel, then setting up mobile broadband makes sense, and gives you an option for use when on the road, as well as in the office in cases of emergency.

Choose the right software approach

How you allow remote staff to access systems will depend on your needs. If you're using software-as-a-service options such as Salesforce.com or hosted email, then remote work is easy to manage; staff will have the same basic login options no matter where they are located. This also means your management approach can be centralised. To provide support for remote staff, check out our selection of the best remote desktop tools. For more complex software scenarios, consider using virtualised desktops, which also allow you to centralise management.

Promote 'asynchronous' work

You don't always have to be connected to work effectively remotely -- you can work in connected "bursts" and then go offline to deal with larger projects. As the winner of our recent IT Survivor challenge explains, this "asynchronous" approach has big benefits:

"Asynchronous" communication channels which let you respond in your own time (like email or shared documents) are the way to go for remote working: they give the impression you're always available while letting you work in your most productive way. When you enable this sort of flexible communication, you start to get really powerful collaborative outcomes no matter what industry you're working in.

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Comments

    Managing remote employee workloads is a little different from the office but modern technology offers many resources that make it possible to telecommute and keep your business running smoothly. Time tracking tools like Worksnaps (http://www.worksnaps.net/www/) can also help multiple employees stay on task on the same project. You can see what one another are doing and check off milestones to remain on track.

      Might be worth prefacing that comment with the fact you're actually employed by them...

    Choosing the right software is so very important when it comes to managing your remote team. That's particularly true if you work with people all over the world. Mikogo offers great online collaboration for remote workers. It comes in a stunning array of languages. It's cross platform, too. :) It's also free for non-commercial use. If any of you check it out, I'd love to know your thoughts.

    Wow, the only comments we get are advertisements? Sigh :).

    I've worked remotely for many years, and for me the biggest pain point is the fact that I'm in a very different time zone from everyone else, which significantly reduces the opportunity for communication.

    So 3 of us are real people who read this article for the article, not to attempt free advertising? Still... gotta admire the gusto. :-)
    I have worked remotely quite a bit (in the scheme of things) and always find myself more productive in a shorter space of time. I do find myself occasionally slipping into a no work/no urgency mood on occasion, but it ends up being easy to snap out of with a 15 minute run with the dog.
    The real issue is the majority of big businesses in Australia still focus on quantity instead of quality (more hours + less work = misplaced recognition) and still believe people who work from home are lazy, despite an increase in delivered projects and a decrease in cost per employee (desk space, computers, swipe cards, power, etc all cost money that doesn't need to be spent if employees are off site on their own dime).
    There is a slow shift in focus, but it is glacial. Even starting your own small business to try and get the benefits of working from home, your own hours, work/life balance, etc can result in having to set up in a random office miles from home, because senior management don't trust anyone they can't see.
    That is behavioural and likely won't be changed until Gen X and Y start to move into these positions and bring fresh, innovative ways of working back into the office... but damn, I cannot wait. Because I love working remotely! :-)

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