All over the world, digitisation is becoming the norm for businesses both small and large. Processes and functions that were previously handled manually or in person are increasingly becoming digitised.
That makes possible a virtual dissolution of the traditional office environment. Workforces can now collaborate across borders, across the country, or across town.
It’s the rise of the distributed workforce.
While this opens up exciting possibilities for remote telecommuting, outsourcing, and collaboration with contractors, it also creates a puzzling new world for managers.
They must adopt or risk a slippage in productivity and deterioration of workplace relationships. Here are five tips to follow if you want to avoid those outcomes.
1. Make Rules and Set Expectations
Even if you’re not fond of rulebooks and strict guidelines, you’ll need at least some degree of standards for your distributed workforce. Setting clear expectations for productivity facilitates prioritizing, time management, and workflow.
Think of it as ‘guidance’ rather than a ‘rulebook’. Post your rules about telecommuting on the company intranet or project management software where everyone has access and can refer to them anytime.
2. Try a Results-Based Approach to Management
It’s human nature for managers to think the only workers doing the job are those they can physically see in the office, at their desks. However, that’s an outdated philosophy that won’t work with a remote workforce.
Managers have to retrain their brains to judge workers on their output, not by hours spent in chairs. Look at results, not activity, in other words, and you’ll instill trust, encourage productivity, and get better results.
3. Make Use of Data-Sharing Capabilities (But Manage Them Well)
When access to resources and data is fast, easy, and universal, organizations run better and become more efficient. It also helps remote workers access everything they need, whenever they need it. In fact, everyone at an organization can benefit from better access to more data. It’s not the sole domain of the IT department anymore.
This means you’ll need to invest in the proper technology to ensure access to data is easy and fast for everyone. You’ll also want an admin dashboard that lets manager control access for security purposes.
4. Reconsider the Role of Your IT Department
Digitisation can open up possibilities for transformation in organizational structure, and not just by allowing a remote workforce. With the new generation of CRM, collaboration, and project management platforms, many tasks previously performed by the IT department are now automated. Therefore, IT roles are being absorbed by marketing, sales, HR, and other departments which previously relied on the IT department for access to data.
This may require that your remote workers undergo some sort of IT training. They should be comfortable connecting from home through a virtual private network (VPN), for example.
Consider redistributing IT tasks to departments so your IT staff is freed up to work on more forward-thinking projects. They’ll appreciate the chance to be innovators for a change! The results-based approach to management can work here, too. Give your IT staff some goals, then let them come up with ways to achieve those goals.
5. Keep Everyone Engaged and Emphasize Team Building
Begin with clear communication, constant feedback, and regular check-ins from all your distributed workforce. Hold live events like webinars to get everyone in the same virtual place at once.
Then, go overtime to create a strong sense of teamwork. You may have to get creative with the team-building techniques, but it’s essential if you want to create a cohesive workforce that runs as efficiently as you need them to.
In the end, you need the same from your distributed workforce as you’d need from a team that’s sitting at desks in the office: a positive attitude, willingness to share and collaborate, a good work ethic, and the desire to learn, grow, and do their best work. These five tips should get you well on your way to making most, if not all of those goals.