What is remote workforce management?

Remote workforce management is a term that describes a manager who looks after a team or department of remote workers. As a manager of remote employees, it’s important to follow clear remote-working policies.

Granted, this may not always be possible when your organisation switches to remote working suddenly, the obvious example being the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, it’s important to develop remote working policies swiftly to ensure your teams remain happy and stay productive.

If your teams work remotely you should encourage them to:

  • Pay attention to their work-life balance
  • Not to take on more work than they would in the office
  • Take regular breaks as the temptation to stay put is stronger at home
  • Keep connected so they don’t feel isolated
  • Develop new organisational methods to manage all their tasks
  • Set boundaries with video calls to avoid getting swamped in virtual meetings

The challenges of remote leadership

Working remotely comes with its own set of challenges. Despite making flexible work arrangements easier, home working can increase loneliness and burnout risk.

Other challenges a manager may face include:

  • Maintaining productivity
  • Overseeing a smooth transition for traditional office workers
  • Keeping engagement high
  • Making an effort to keep co-workers connected
  • Spotting the signs of stress
  • Conducting online training for a new job or role

In-office vs WFH employee motivation

A sense of purpose and alignment with cultural values motivates employees to do good work no matter they’re based. And, for the most part, working from home has been shown to boost productivity rather than reduce it. That said, it’s also important to consider the cons of working from home too.

The most common gripe of remote working is faulty office equipment and poor internet connectivity. But another factor to consider is seclusion. Working in the presence of other people can fuel productivity and increase motivation and this is often lacking at home.

Whether we like it or not, our colleagues are our accountability partners and when we work on our own that accountability may drop. Luckily, working together in virtual meeting rooms, or simply playing a background video of someone working can mimic the effect of being in an office.

Woman working from home and looking at her laptop screen

Remote management styles that encourage WFH productivity

There are several different types of management styles and those that work best for remote working include:

Participative management

When someone is engaging in participative management — or democratic style, as it’s also known — they actively seek their direct reports’ opinions and ideas. For example, they might ask them how the company can achieve an improved work-life balance or include them in goal setting. Either way, participative managers enjoy involving others in remote team building activities and earning the trust of their colleagues.

Transformative management

Managers who lean towards a transformative style are big-picture thinkers. Their strengths lie in observing behaviours and processes from afar, to gauge how well everything is working. Typically, a transformative manager is charismatic and has a strong sense of purpose. They’re also great at sharing their knowledge with others. In terms of managing remote employees, transformative managers are especially good at identifying areas of improvement. This could be managing everyone’s working hours and availability, while also maintaining productive remote work environments.

Situational management

Adaptability is the hallmark of situational management behaviour. For this reason, it’s hard to reliably define what a situational leader is. Situational leaders are constantly evolving to meet the needs of their teams. Depending on what their role calls for they can take a hands-on or hands-off approach. Their management style is ideal for easing the transition from an in-office environment to home working.

Servant management

The traits of a servant manager include collaboration, commitment, and compassion. They are excellent listeners and take an interest in the personal lives of their employees. More often than not, these managers regularly check in with their remote teams over instant messaging. They don’t let the absence of an office space get in the way of catch-ups.

How to manage remote teams for maximum productivity in 5 ways

When managing remote teams it’s easy to slip into focusing on your own project responsibilities and lose touch with your direct reports. You may notice you only reach out to them about work and have forgotten the positive impact informal conversations had on your working relationships.

There are several ways to reconnect with your teams and boost productivity:

1. Celebrate their wins

Celebrating your teams’ wins is even more important when they work from home. In the office you have plenty of opportunities to thank them in person. When you’re at home it’s easier to forget to show appreciation. However, employee engagement tools are a good reminder because they make recognising employees simple and easy.

With our reward and recognition platform your employees can send each other recognition from an app. Because the app is accessible from a smartphone and laptop, your teams can show appreciation at any time, no matter where in the world they are. They can even tag each recognition to your values, which keeps your company culture healthy.

What’s more, managers can send their star performers Reward points. The more points an employee has the bigger the reward they can claim. And, because we have partnerships with many global brands, most of our rewards have an international reach too.

Learn more about cultivating a culture of celebration with our recognition and reward platform.

2. Promote wellbeing

It’s not surprising that when people work from home they take fewer breaks and tend to stay focused for longer. When we share office space with others, we pick up behavioural cues, such as when to take a break or look away from our screens. This is why promoting wellbeing is really important when employees work on their own from home.

Because our employee engagement solution includes a wellbeing platform, your teams automatically benefit from a range of workout videos, yoga flows, and health webinars from their laptop or phone. Additionally, because we’ve worked with the best health content providers everyone has access to high-quality wellbeing resources.

3. Give back

While there are some fantastic perks to working from home, such as no commute, no packed lunches, and no uniform — most of the time. Other costs can creep up, such as utility bills and even the weekly food shop.

For this reason, it’s good to think about the expense of remote working and how you can support your teams' financial wellbeing. Of course, in an ideal world our personal life is kept separate from our professional. But when working from home this is more difficult. To create a soft boundary we may want to decorate our office differently from the rest of our home. In this instance, it would be good to offer your remote employees corporate discounts that include DIY products and homeware.

Choosing a comprehensive discounts package is one the most cost-effective ways of easing the cost of living for your teams. Perkbox includes 1,000s of discounts and perks with international retailers and popular brands. Categories include homeware, DIY, jewellery, experiences, and much more.

4. Keep everyone connected

Employees who work flexibly tend to work different schedules, especially when they work from home. Some may start a couple of hours later and others earlier. So having an effective comms strategy is paramount if you want to keep everyone connected.

Want to know how to create an award-winning flexible working policy? Find out more in our free guide.

5 shocking working from home productivity statistics

People respond differently when they work from home and some take to it more than others. Generally, though, most people are prepared to put up with a few minor trade-offs if it means saving both time and money on their commute.

To get an idea of the changes some organisations have noticed in their remote employees, we’ve included some interesting statistics.

Virtual meetings are less stressful

Unfortunately, meetings can be a stressful distraction, especially in the office. However, most employees feel virtual meetings are less stressful, in comparison with in-person get-togethers.1 Obviously, this could be due to having the option of appearing offscreen and muted. But another explanation is that virtual meetings are usually less disruptive because a person doesn’t have to get up and leave their desk. If you want to change how you run your meetings, try moving more of them online and ask your teams what they think.

Home working can drastically increase productivity

Anecdotally, we’ve all heard of the productivity benefits of working from home, but what does the research say? In one Stanford study, call centre workers who switched to working from home were 13% more productive than those who stayed in the office.2 Of course, working preferences differ between employees and we don’t know the effects of working from home in other industries. But either way, these results highlight how working from home could unlock productivity in your business.

A lack of social interaction could put productivity at risk

The biggest negative about working from home is the impact it has on work relationships. Especially as one survey recorded that 70% of employees feel professional relationships are just as important as the work itself. In light of this, companies must ensure that when they’re expanding their remote teams they continue to develop their culture online too. There can’t be any cultural disparities between what it’s like to work in the office versus at home as this could harm team morale.

Remote working is more likely to increase productivity when tasks are meaningful

One study compared how productive people were when they worked on dull versus creative projects at home. Surprisingly, working from home didn’t always boost productivity. When a person was working on a dull or boring task they were actually more productive in an office environment. However, when they were able to work on something they enjoyed, productivity levels were much higher at home.3 Obviously this is just one study, so the results shouldn’t be generalised to all employees. Nevertheless, this result is something to bear in mind — especially if you’re thinking about introducing a hybrid model of working.

Working from home is less distracting

Unsurprisingly, remote workers are less distracted by colleagues than those who work in an office. On average, office workers talk about non-work topics for 30 minutes more than remote employees. Obviously, the benefit of this is that your remote teams are getting on with their work. But is there a hidden cultural cost? Informal non-work conversations are what bring your teams together. And, if remote work reduces these types of interactions it could harm how your teams get along. To avoid this from happening we recommend dedicating some instant messaging channels to non-work conversations. Perhaps you create a channel where people share funny images of their pets. Or, a foodie group where employees can talk about recipes and cooking tips. 

Woman working from home while her child hugs her from behind

Best practices for remote leaders to inspire working from home productivity

Here are our top tips to get the most out of your remote teams without compromising on culture.

  • Keep remote workers happy and productive with an engagement tool: Comprehensive engagement solutions are incredibly cost-effective as they include employee rewards, corporate discounts, wellbeing resources, and more. With just an app you can boost productivity and engagement, while also bringing all of your teams together, no matter where they’re based.
  • Avoid the temptation to micromanage teams: Out of sight out of mind, may ring true for some remote managers, but not for all — particularly if they’ve recently started working at home. Not being able to physically see employees working can trigger micromanaging behaviours. Just remember, that nurturing, not lecturing is how a strong leader develops their team.
  • Use the 5–15 reporting methodology: When you ask for a weekly summary from your teams, the report should be written in 15 minutes and read in 5. When reports are written like this it gives your teams a moment of introspection where they can take stock of their wins for the week. Some weeks will be better than others. But what’s great about this method is that employees can use it as a time for reflection.
  • Practise active listening: Conflicts inevitably will happen, regardless of where a person is working from. Additionally, typing or being on a video call may mean you don’t pick up on verbal or body language cues as effectively as in-person. In these situations, it’s important to re-read what you’ve written and check for tone. You need to be fully present in your response and pay attention to what the other person is trying to communicate.

Team members high-fiving during a meeting

Boost productivity in your remote teams with Perkbox

If you want to get the most out of your remote teams, a comprehensive engagement solution is an excellent option. With Perkbox, you get recognition and reward functionality, thousands of global discounts, top-quality wellbeing resources, and a centralised comms platform — perfect for organisations who operate on an international level and those who have remote or hybrid teams.

Want to know how Perkbox can help you increase productivity in your remote employees? Request a demo today and a member of our team will get back to you.

How to boost productivity when working from home: your FAQs answered

Does working from home improve productivity?

Working from home can improve productivity. Most people say their focus is better as they experience fewer distractions from co-workers. But not everyone prefers working remotely. Some people like the buzz of an office and having boundaries between work and home. That said, clear work-from-home policies can make the transition to remote working easier for some people. Also, an additional benefit is that they make your organisation more attractive to prospective job applicants, who value flexibility.

How do you set expectations for remote workers?

What is remote leadership?

Learn how you can boost productivity and motivation with Perkbox

Celebrate and motivate your employees no matter where they’re working — in one building, remotely or across multiple locations.

  • Create a culture of appreciation that motivates and engages employees
  • Boost productivity and employee retention
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