The globalization of business, companies, and industries, combined with ever-advancing mobile technologies, provides an array of options for today’s corporate managers. Remote salespeople and employees can stay in touch through SMS, emails, texts, conference calls, video platforms, and online meetings. Websites provide a platform for updated product or service information, webinars offer opportunities for remote trainings and introductions, and Content Management Systems and new tools enable creative teams to collaborate on a variety of projects from remote or home offices.
The opportunities of working with a mobile workforce are many, but managing teams from a distance can be challenging. Managers supervise employees whom they can’t meet with face to face and whose schedules and daily workflow they don’t control.
Meanwhile, employees are demanding increased flexibility and an acceptable balance between work and personal lives. A survey conducted by FlexJobs in 2014 found that job seekers are looking for flexible work options due to concerns about work-life balance (74%), family reasons (52%), health and exercise (52%), time savings and reduced commute stress (47%), cost savings (43%) and other reasons, such as the job market in their local area (22%) and the need to take care of a family member (21%).
The following tips can help maximize efficiency and productivity when managing a mobile workforce:
Stay Up-to-Date on Mobile Technology: Managers should stay up-to-date on the latest applications that enable audio, video, and online conferencing; fast and easy access to mobile meetings; secure data sharing; and creative collaboration. The best mobile applications can enable field workers, telecommuters, and other off-site employees to boost productivity, reduce business costs, and improve responsiveness. MobileDay is one of the many new technologies improving the productivity of remote teams (click here to learn about some others).
Avoid the Temptation to Over-Control: When supervising an on-site workforce, many managers oversee office hours, meeting schedules, daily priorities, break times, and even dress codes. It’s not possible to maintain the same type of control over a mobile workforce. Instead of focusing on micro-managing employees’ individual tasks, mobile managers can boost efficiency by fostering teamwork, productivity, and creativity. The focus shifts from the process to the results.
Communicate: All managers should communicate regularly with their employees to stay abreast of changes or problems, and to assess performance, programs, and policies. This is no different with a mobile workforce. Regular communication helps managers relay company strategies, promote motivation, be a source of general work information, improve employee attitudes, and control business outcomes. Mobile managers can take just as much advantage of communications tools as their employees.
Set goals: Mobile managers must trust employees to meet expectations without direct or on-site supervision. Clear and effective communication of these expectations is key, and it can help to set goals that revolve around quantifiable results.
Lead by example: A great way for managers to communicate expectations, whether about work/life balance, accessibility, or results-driven processes, is to “walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.”  If you want to build a corporate culture based on openness and honesty, exhibit those characteristics as a manger. If you hope to encourage reasonable hours, for example, keep those hours yourself. If it’s important to be accessible, be accessible. If you want to foster teamwork, communicate regularly with team members and encourage them to do the same with each other.
By staying up-to-date on the latest technologies, relinquishing over-control, communicating regularly, setting clear goals focused on quantifiable results, and leading by example, managers of mobile workforces can build efficient, hard-working, results-driven teams—and embrace the advantages modern business tools and the global business environment.