Businesses need internal chains of command to function properly. Hierarchical structures from director level down to junior and assistant roles, aid the smooth flow of command. Traditionally, teams work closely together to complete assigned tasks, typically with senior members of the team signing off work delegated to junior staff. The in-office environment is conducive to team work. Employees are side by side, bounce ideas off each other and ask for help from managers or experienced colleagues. But this set up is by no means the only way to work. Remote working has boomed during the recession due to multiple factors:
People are quitting urban areas to afford getting on to the property ladder;
Full-time, permanent roles are few and far between; and
People are taking on second jobs, or freelance work, as a means of boosting their monthly income.
Over the past 12 months alone, PeoplePerHour has seen a 102 per cent rise in the number of new freelancers registering on the site. With more and more businesses outsourcing tasks to freelancers, how does this affect the chain of command? How do managers adapt their approach to include remote workers? There is no reason that colleagues need to work side by side to work efficiently and effectively. Take our increasing reliance on email and instant messenger to communicate, as a case in point. Hands up who has skyped, emailed or text messaged a colleague in their office sitting just metres away? I’d hazard a guess that we’re all guilty. Face-to-face communication is becoming increasingly unnecessary, but that’s not always a bad thing. Workforces are now more virtual, flexible, global and ever-changing. For businesses, the benefits are obvious: lower costs compared to recruiting permanent staff on payroll, necessary pension, NI contributions, and access to skilled people companies only need on a project-by-project or one-off basis. While management roles won’t become completely redundant, they will – and are already – changing. There will always be a need for micro-management when training up new recruits at junior level. The key benefit of virtual freelance workers is that they possess skills senior managers don’t have. This means, inevitably, the role of manager becomes one of overseeing and coordinating, from setting deadlines to feeding back on the quality of work delivered. “Manager” is an all-encompassing term, but keeping a handle on outsourced work is extremely important, particularly with multiple projects and freelancers involved in day-to-day operations at once. Assessing the quality of work delivered is also important in case a business needs to commission follow-up projects. Managers must also ascertain how the project will be delivered. If it’s market research, for example, this might be in presentation format with an accompanying document. Just as crucial is identifying the best lines of communication for remote workers, be that a daily progress update by phone, conference call, a weekly document or in real time via an instant messenger. From Apple’s FaceTime to Skype, it’s clear that modern technology lends itself to remote working, bringing colleagues together for meetings who might be based all over the world. Essentially, a remote workforce requires a fresh approach. It’s management, Jim, but not as we know it. Xenios Thrasyvoulou is the founder of online freelance marketplacePeoplePerHour.
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