5 Ways to Improve Remote Workforce Management
Workforce management has always had its challenges, but the remote workplace has introduced a variety of new obstacles that managers must overcome.
In the years ahead, we can expect remote work to become more common in the workplace.
While some have suggested that “remote work is the future,” most research suggests that tomorrow’s office will become a hybrid workplace with both onsite and offsite work.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the research that shows why telecommuting is here to stay, what this implies for managers, and a few tips leaders can utilize to better manage the remote workforce.
What the research says about the remote workforce
There are certainly benefits to remote work, as study after study has discovered.
- 73% of US adults feel more positively about remote work as a result of COVID-19. (MorningConsult)
- 98% of those who already work remotely would like to continue to do so, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career. (Buffer)
- 54% of office workers said they would leave their job for one that offers flexible work time. (Gallup)
- 55% of executives expect to offer the option for flexible work weeks that include at least one day of remote work per week. (PwC)
These benefits, however, do come with caveats and drawbacks.
- Not all workers prefer remote work over onsite work
- Remote work comes with its own problems, such as social isolation and difficulty collaborating with coworkers
- Shifting to a remote workplace means that managers must rethink their approach to managing employees
The issue of whether remote work is “better” than onsite work really just comes down to preference – some may enjoy it and some may not.
Regardless of preference, what is certain is that remote working is here to stay, at least to some extent.
Managers, therefore, should not expect the workplace to return to the same normal that we knew in 2019. Instead, it is important to ready ourselves for what McKinsey calls “the next normal,” a new paradigm in business, work, and life.
Today’s remote workplace should not be viewed as a temporary transition.
Instead, today’s remote environment should be used to help managers prepare for a workplace, and a workforce, that is more virtual and digital.
Tips for better remote workforce management
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when optimizing remote workflows and preparing for tomorrow’s hybrid workforce:
1. Modernize digital tools and workflows
To improve employee productivity and engagement, managers will need to rethink the way they operate.
Digital technology and workflows have already become central pillars of the modern workplace.
Yet in a remote work setting, it is even more important to modernize tools and workflows.
Doing so will have an immediate and positive impact on the workforce:
- Employees will be more engaged and productive when they have the proper tools at their disposal.
- Modern digital workflows result in a better employee experience, which will improve metrics such as job satisfaction.
- The right tools can decrease software-related frustration, which can, in turn, boost productivity and performance.
In short, the right digital solutions are necessary to create a positive and productive work environment, which goes a long way towards improving employee performance and behavior.
2. Leverage remote training solutions
Skills training has become essential for the modern enterprise worker.
Even before the pandemic, it was widely recognized that employees would need to become perpetual learners.
Now, for the remote workforce in particular, it is essential to provide effective digital training online.
Digital adoption platforms (DAPs), such as WalkMe, are used by some of the world’s largest companies to automate and streamline software training – both online and off.
It includes enabling solutions such as:
- Context-driven guidance and tips
- In-app software walkthroughs and product tours
- Software analytics that offer insight into users’ training needs
When used as part of a comprehensive digital adoption strategy, WalkMe can simplify the employee experience, reduce errors, improve software proficiency and more.
3. Standardize business processes and communication protocols
One of the biggest barriers to effective remote work is collaboration with teammates, according to the Buffer survey cited above.
There can be a number of underlying reasons that cause communication difficulties in the remote work environment.
For instance, some employees may be working in different time zones or they may use different software.
Often, collaboration problems boil down to differences in communication styles and expectations.
Since remote workers are no longer in the same office, many nonverbal or informal communication cues are stripped away.
To compensate, managers should standardize business processes and communication rules.
By clarifying procedural expectations and making adjustments as needed, it will be much easier to minimize communication problems online.
4. Make time for social interaction
At the office, employees can engage in informal social interaction at any time of the day.
While many of us may have never fully realized the advantages that this type of environment offers, the pandemic has highlighted how important social interaction is for the worker.
Social isolation, as Buffer’s survey pointed out, is actually the top challenge for remote workers – tied for first place with effective collaboration.
Not only does social isolation pose problems for the individual employee, it also poses problems for managers, the team, and the entire workplace culture.
One of the best ways to mitigate the negatives associated with social isolation is to incorporate online social time into the workday. These can include virtual “watercooler chats” via Zoom, video games, or anything else that gives employees a chance to bond.
5. Proactively listen to employees
As we reviewed, social isolation and effective collaboration are two of the biggest obstacles that remote teams will face.
However, every team and every workplace is unique. Each will have its own obstacles to surpass when it comes to remote working.
The best way to assess the state of one’s team, as well as one’s own management efforts, is to continually and proactively solicit feedback from employees.
Surveys, and even conversations, can be valuable sources of information in this regard.
Once that information has been collected and understood, it can be leveraged to help build the ideal remote workplace.