Leadership & Culture

Remote workforce management reminders

Remote work is now an everyday reality for many Australian businesses. What isn’t as common is the ability to manage remote or hybrid workforces with finesse to ensure a business is achieving a combination of productivity, growth and employee engagement over the longer term.

There were many lessons learned about managing a successful remote workforce in 2020. With remote work being weaved into our way of life in 2021 and beyond, these reminders can support businesses who may need to integrate remote work in a more sustainable way in the future.

 

Reminder 1: Acknowledge this changes everything

 

The first thing to remember is remote work could change (almost) everything. From the ongoing need for large, expensive offices (or education campuses), to the need to have a local workforce clocked in and accounted for between 9am and 5pm, the ways we’ve undertaken work are all open to question. As a result, they are also open to positive change, experimentation and innovation. 

What’s important is transforming the ‘shock’ of the 2020/2021 adjustment into perpetually seeing things differently. What value could hiring someone in another city add, and what sort of qualities do you need in a hybrid workforce? Do you need your existing office or campus, or could it be used more effectively to free up resources? What online models could you consider with a remote team?

 

Reminder 2: See technology as an ally, not an enemy

 

There are now a whole universe of technologies designed to support businesses in this new world. While getting across the options can be daunting, especially in very busy and challenging times, the reality is these technologies exist to help businesses overcome real problems and challenges, and the effort to understand, test and implement them can yield large dividends over time.

For example, educators should investigate solutions across their business, from file management and project management through to team collaboration and employee engagement software. This should include understanding the capabilities of remote workforce-friendly Student Management Systems like JR Plus and blended learning-ready Learning Management Systems like aNewSpring.

 

Reminder 3: Pursue productivity with purpose

 

Educators no longer need to fear the precipitous drop-off in productivity that could theoretically have come from remote work. Instead, the experience of many employers in 2020 was that, despite the disruption, productivity has actually been maintained or increased, as workers have established home routines around other commitments to achieve focus and get work done.

In the longer term, what will help is employers continuing to trust employees with their personal productivity, allowing the likes of focus blocks so that workers can push through tasks without interruption. Bringing a workforce together around values and purpose will also ensure a focus on the overall vision, which will flow through into motivation through the everyday ups and downs.

 

Reminder 4: Commit to communicate and engage

 

Communication and engagement is more critical than ever to address formally in a remote working world. With less opportunities for casual conversations between managers, staff and other team members, or the ability to be across key business decisions and initiatives, things can fall through the cracks. Fostering regular communication supports productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

Educators, for example, should ensure they document everything consistently, and make it readily available. Bringing staff together for regular team or company ‘town hall’ meetings online boosts formal communication, while SMS and communication apps like Slack can facilitate everyday needs. Informal communication – like online coffee clubs or co-working - should be actively scheduled.

 

Reminder 5: Support the sanity of you and yours

 

The wellbeing of employees will need to continue to be a core focus of businesses pursuing remote or hybrid working strategies. With a retreat into working more in isolation and less opportunities to connect face-to-face with all of the benefits that can bring, employers will need to continue to go up a gear in terms of extending always on wellbeing support into the remote lives of their workforce.

Proactive employers are doing more to allow their workers to meet up in informal settings - either online or in the real world – to offer support and camaraderie. More emphasis is being placed on structures and agreements to limit the prevalence of overwork and burnout in remote settings, while setting up structured support through the likes of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).