How to manage remote teams better

A ManpowerGroup webinar yesterday discussed how to improve the way we manage remote teams based on the last year’s experience.

Stressed women at laptop


How do we manage remote teams better? A webinar this week run by ManpowerGroup aimed to focus on the kind of best practice that has emerged in recent months and provide some insights for future ways of working, including hybrid working.

The main learning of Managing a Remote Workforce: One Year On was around the need to focus on mental well being. Leanne Winter, HR Manager at ManpowerGroup, said well being is a top priority and managers need to model good behaviour. That means sticking to working times and doing regular check-ins as well as, for instance, holding walking meetings to get people moving. She added that Acas has an e-learning section where they provide information about how to support remote workers.

James Levey, Compliance Director at ManpowerGroup, admitted it is harder for managers to spot if someone has well being issues when they are working remotely than when they are sat all day in the same office with their team. They have to make a conscious effort to check in with people. “It requires active management such as one to ones and an ability to understand the context of a worker. Managers need to be appropriate, listen, actively make time and ask the right questions,” he said.

Leanne said it was also important to ensure there is time for social interactions in the working day. “During a normal working day you have down time. The importance of that cannot be undervalued,” she said. She puts time in the diary for informal catch-ups and doing things such as celebrating birthdays.

Digital presenteeism

Speakers expressed concern about digital presenteeism. “We know people are doing more and more work and that productivity has been soaring due to the longer hours people are putting in,” said James, adding that work and life had become more blurred without commutes to the office and that longer hours were not sustainable and would lead to burnout and disengagement. He endorsed regular focus hours when people can take a break. He said no-one in an office works eight hours with no social interaction and without moving from their desk. Managers also had to be disciplined about when they send emails and not setting expectations, even inadvertently, that people will answer at weekends or in the evening. Leanne added that Manpower was rewriting its remote working policy with an emphasis on well being and engagement.

James said it was a time to “be brave” and embrace new ‘people first’ models of working which allow employees greater choice over where, how and when they work. Leaders needed to set the tone and model it.

He added that it was important to do the right planning and implementation for the return to work and said each company’s circumstances would be different. Leanne said managers needed to have one to one conversations with team members and listen to what they felt about coming back to work.

There was a discussion about no-zoom Fridays, with panellists saying they were worried that it could lead to longer days on Mondays to Thursdays. They felt it was better to reduce the number of daily zoom calls generally. James said a colleague made sure that meetings only lasted 50 minutes so that there was a 10-minute break between meetings.

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