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Familiar adage “communication is key” is crucial when managing remote employees

By the end of this year over 50 per cent of UK businesses will be implementing flexible working. That’s nearly 3m companies embracing the concept of remote employees, making office desks as we know them, obsolete.
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With so many business owners moving towards remote employees and flexible working, communication and management processes need to be updated in order to facilitate the changing needs of staff.

There are a variety of benefits remote employees can bring to your business, such as an increase in productivity, reduced operational costs and access to global talent and expertise. Despite these benefits, it can often feel daunting to make the transition from having staff in your office to hiring remote employees from working different cities.

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First of all, when calling everyone in for an impromptu morning meeting isn’t an option, it’s key to plan your communication channels carefully. Therefore, the familiar adage “communication is key” really comes into its own when managing a remote workforce. Any employer will tell you that meetings, whether they be weekly, fortnightly, or once a quarter, are a large part of keeping your team focused and streamlined.

When these meetings can’t be face to face, it’s essential to implement a clear communication structure and regular virtual meetings to manage employees effectively. This can help staff feel supported with their workload, as well as create a positive work relationship with the management team. Skype, conference calls, emails and virtual meet ups become important to achieve a successful team dynamic. While these channels are used to achieve a sense of team, you also need to ensure you are updating your team on business news, events and workshops.

For example, at SmartPA, we work with clients and franchisees all over the world. Due to the different time zones and language barriers, team bonding can become more challenging than with employees in the same office. To combat this, we created our own online forum where partners can communicate with each other – and we can keep remote employees updated on news and on-going training. Through such means you can foster positive relationships that would usually happen in the office.

Although your workforce is remote, don’t discount the importance of face-to-face meetings. Organising regular face-to-face meetings, seminars, networking events or team socials allows staff to get to know their colleagues. Granted, such meetings might not be possible if teams are global. In these instances, webinars and virtual sessions can be an effective way to beat the location challenge. Another option is to encourage staff to meet up with colleagues in their locality.

Through meetings and regular correspondence, it becomes clear that being a proactive communicator is key. Although it is up to the management team to put these strategies in place, it’s equally important to employ remote workers that are proactive. Your workforce needs to have the ability to flag potential issues throughout their working day as well as communicate achievements. By focusing your recruitment on candidates that are instinctual communicators, you can make management easier and more successful.

As remote employee numbers increase across the UK, it’s crucial that staff utilising this talent are putting strategies in place to manage them effectively. By creating clear communication channels, holding regular meetings (whether it be virtual or otherwise) and hiring carefully, your business can get the most out of its virtual workforce.

Sarra Bejaoui is co-founder and managing director at SmartPA

Image: Shutterstock

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