It’s understandable that the latest threat to our working and personal lives is under ever-increasing scrutiny. Coronavirus is not only placing our daily routines into question for the sake of our health, it’s also posing a growing challenge to the way we conduct business on a global scale.

One of the most pressing challenges that organisations are facing is how to quickly and seamlessly enable a remote, home-based workforce.

For those embarking on this new model for the first time, a lot can be learnt from those businesses who have already embedded a remote or home-working culture. Having to adapt quickly in a time of crisis isn’t easy – but there are a lot of positives that can be reaped as a result.

Engagement and location aren’t the same thing

There is an ongoing belief that management is best conducted with managers and team in close proximity to each other, and a view that success is best achieved when managers are physically embedded within their teams.

However, our research and experience tell a different story which should deliver reassurance to those employers who are having to adjust their working practices:

  • Remotely managed employees (RMEs) are no less engaged than locally managed employees; if anything, they tend to be a little more engaged
  • As long as RMEs receive a good level of ‘management’; the employee-manager relationship doesn’t suffer just because individuals are not physically together
  • Regular structured check-ins between managers and employees are more likely to happen with RMEs, resulting in good quality conversations that drive business and individual success

Remote working drives empowerment

When we dig into our research, there’s further evidence that remote working can be good for business. Remote employees enjoy the way they work and relish the fact that they aren’t being micro-managed.

They feel empowered and trusted by their managers to do their job, without needing constant physical supervision.

In fact, in many organisations we’ve worked with, the engagement levels of remotely managed employees are higher than those of centrally located teams.  They’re also more likely to be advocates of the business, and be loyal to both the organisation and their manager.

Productive, positive management

Of course, there are challenges when adapting to a remote workforce – loss of support and camaraderie being key here. This is where positive organisational and leadership culture and behaviours are critical.

To successfully manage a remote workforce, even if that’s on a temporary basis or just an element of the wider employee base, leaders and managers must share and role-model a positive approach to the concept of remote working.

Their approach really needs to focus on three critical elements:

  • Delivering the basics – including regular check-ins, keeping employees informed, enjoying a productive working environment
  • Creating an emotional connection – employees feel empowered, trusted, cared for and that their opinions are valued
  • Support to develop and grow – including career development, connections, recognition and fair evaluation

Don’t fear a new approach

The lessons learnt by our own clients and the evidence we’ve gathered across our 25 years of experience tells us one important thing: there is nothing to fear from remote working.

Done with care, it can be an asset to your business and you may find new, improved ways of working which will benefit your organisation long after we’ve weathered this still unknown storm. Your remote managers can do a great job with their distributed workforce, and your employees can share new, innovative techniques for more structured and organised management.

Now is the time to exploit the positives – while of course looking after everyone in our business and making sure we’re focusing on the right things first.

If you’d like further information about continuing to engage your employees during these challenging times, we’d love to help. Simply contact us today to find out more.

Nick Thompson / Director

Michael Frantl / Associate Director