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Inside the mind of the remote worker

Soraya is one of 12 people working on a European-wide project for a financial services firm. She is one of nine working from home. Soraya’s young boys are school-age so she’s able to be there for her family at important times of the day.

She enjoys her job but at times feels isolated. She’s not sure how to approach her manager, Luisa, to discuss it because Luisa never seems to have any free time. Other team members have been saying similar things about Luisa but few feel brave enough to say anything because they fear it will reflect on their job performance.

Luisa is managing four projects at the moment, all of them consist of remote teams ranging from five people up to 25. Luisa remembers how much easier it used to be when teams were physically based in the same office. She feels it’s a struggle to keep tabs on her teams’ performance. Since she is less sure how to measure it, she can’t help feeling it’s affecting the way she conducts conversations with some of the team.

This example is rooted in some home truths from managers attending our Managing Remote Worker courses. This method of working is increasingly commonplace – nearly 14% of the UK working population is based remotely. This figure has since grown in the wake of lockdown restrictions first announced in 2020. 

But tensions are evolving because managers, many of whom are not given the right training to become good managers in the first place, are landed with an even greater challenge when it comes to managing remote workers. How do they know if someone is working at capacity? How do they build trust? What is the best way of delivering feedback if you are never in the same room as them?

Our course has plenty of practical suggestions, here are a few:

Be clear on what’s expected

If you want something done as a priority then it needs to be said. If you’d prefer someone to let you know when they’ve got capacity, then make sure you tell them. The clearer you can be on what you want, the easier the job will be.

Communicate regularly

We have so many ways to stay in touch – text, messenger, email – check in with your team and be responsive to their communications too. This will help to close the gap.

Be inclusive

Bring your team together and make sure remote workers are treated in the same way. Organise virtual meetings and present opportunities for team bonding sessions. Have photos of your remote workers in your office as a visual reminder to you and your whole team to include them.

Get clever with tech

There are so many tools available for remote working. Work with your team to use the tools that will really enhance team performance and productivity.  

Be honest

Sometimes remote working doesn’t always go smoothly, either for you or your co-worker. Be brave and have that conversation about working elsewhere if remote working isn’t right. There might be a simple answer to solve the problem.  

Find out more about our Managing Remote Workers course here.

This blog post was first published in 2018 and updated in 2021, following the coronavirus pandemic.

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