The new work environment

Effectively managing distance staff.

In today’s economy working from a distance, or even remotely is becoming common. With many companies downsizing to avoid layoffs and retain their current talent, businesses are changing the way they operate. Some companies allow staff to work remotely, from home or job share. These trending work environments are proving to be cost effective for companies, for example by saving travel dollars. With this trend comes the challenge of being able to manage employees from a distance.

Michigan State University Extension suggests that supervisors consider the following to better supervise their staff from a distance.

  • Establish a repoire with your employees: Make the effort to meet with your staff and get to know each other. I suggest doing this face-to face for the first few times. If distance is a factor try using webcams or skype (keep in mind that special equipment may be required for the internet, webcam, tablet, cellular camera phone or laptop when using a webcam). Being able to see faces is important. However, if none of those options are possible use of a conference call line – practical and economical. Webinars and online meetings are also an option, but also require special equipment.
  • Set protocols: This is the point when the supervisor should reiterate what is expected of the employee, and when. Let your team know what they can expect from you in return. Such as how to reach you in an emergency, reporting an injury at work, who to call when they are sick, etc.
  • Communication: Explain the importance of cellphones, electronic calendars, email and text messaging.
  • Express your expectations: This is when you establish deadlines. Make work and detail expectations clear and be concise. Follow this up with an email to staff to reiterate what was discussed.
  • Do site visits: Go out to areas that staff maybe working in and watch them in action. This lets staff know that you value them and support the work they do.
  • Exchange cell phone numbers: This is like an open door policy that let’s staff know you are accessible, even though you are at a distance.

Being a distance supervisor requires accessibility, flexibility, great communication skills, interpersonal skills and organizational skills to help you manage remotely.

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