How to Manage Frontline Workers In Remote Teams Successfully

Adam Neveu
May 13, 2022

In the modern business world, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of frontline workers in remote locations – whether that’s workplaces in different locations or travelling to where the customers are. This has drastically changed how staff need to be managed. Different tactics are required when managing remote teams, no matter where they are, compared to those in an office, for example, as there are unique challenges to overcome.

When thinking of how to manage a remote team or staff working in locations different from their manager, you should consider not only the behaviours and attitudes of your staff, but the jobs they have to do.

While some businesses have operated out of multiple locations for a long time, organisations in the leisure and healthcare industries still have workplaces that staff are based in, such as a central office. Staff in a leisure centre or theme park will be working in different locations, sometimes without direct supervision, and technology now keeps us more connected to support them during their work.

However, we first need to understand the challenges of remote working for our frontline teams. Once we do, it becomes easier to put things in place that allow managers to get the most out of the staff no matter where they work from.

It might be a long process, but when the culture improves, staff engagement will, too, and you’ll see a wide range of benefits.

The Challenges Of Leading Frontline Workers In Remote Teams

The temptation to manage a remote team the same way you would with staff in-person is real for many managers. There’s a feeling that the skills, knowledge and approaches should be the same to make things fair for everyone, but because the situation and environments are different, this actually causes inequality. It can also cause friction between managers and frontline staff and between those with the manager and those in different sites or locations.

Before we look at ways to manage remote teams and frontline workers, it’s useful to know some of the barriers and challenges that managers and staff face when working together over large distances so we can keep them in mind when implementing processes to address them.

The Challenges For Remote And Hybrid Working

New working methods, such as remotely working from home, flexible hybrid working or physically being at work have changed how we do things. Even within a business, staff will sometimes be expected to work in different locations from their team or management.

Regardless of what pattern of working your frontline staff use, there are challenges to overcome, especially when your teams work in different sites. This include:

  • Lack of face-to-face supervision
  • Social isolation
  • Poor communication
  • Unrealistic targets and expectations.

There are other challenges, too, but some of these are dependent on the business, the role, and even the individual. How we adapt to a new environment or way of doing things is hard to predict, but keeping an open mind and working through challenges together, on an individual basis, as a team, or a whole organisation, can ensure everyone is supported properly. This means everyone can be in a supportive workplace and work towards the same goals.

5 Ways To Manage Frontline Staff And Remote Teams

With these challenges in mind, there are ways you can manage remote teams to bring the best out of every member of staff. Understanding that everyone is different, and that they perform better in certain situations, is key to achieving the potential of every employee.

We’ve listed 6 ways you can start to do this, although there are more. Some may need to be adapted to your team or situation, but they are a solid foundation for what you can do.

Utilise Daily Check-Ins

Making sure remote workers and frontline teams feel connected to their managers is of paramount importance. With staff working across different locations and engaging with customers daily, it can be easy to feel disconnected from the rest of the people in the business.

In an age where workers don’t see each other physically, daily check-ins are the best way to keep everyone connected. These can be on a one-to-one basis between manager and team member or as part of a wider team. It’s a fantastic opportunity to check in on workloads, targets and expectations, but also mental well-being and just how your staff are feeling.

Consider a daily check-in, either at the start or end of the working day, to give employees a chance to talk through what’s on their mind, support the team and have some social interaction.

Include Social Activities

While a daily check-in can help employees feel connected, they’re not social activities. Part of our interactions at work are social. The break room chats, learning about our colleagues, supporting them in their endeavours and hobbies – this can all be lost if all we see is a name on a screen.

Think of ways to help your team bond virtually and improve their relationships. Unwinding events at the end of the week, for example, where work conversation is mostly off limits, can let staff talk to people normally might not. You can also look at online quiz events, skilled masterclasses, and even board game events. Technology makes all of this possible, but find a balance for these events between working hours and non-working hours.

Schedule regular social activities or events that remote workers can take part in, both in working hours and beyond.

Work On Effective Communication

One of the biggest challenges of a remote team is effective communication. We rely on body language, intonation, gestures and words when we communicate in person, but this isn’t possible through all communication tools. Video calls can help, but written communication is a staple for remote teams, with group messaging a common resource used by many.

This often means making sure your instructions, requests and information are not only concise but clear, too. Don’t assume that staff know what you mean, even if they say they do. Go the extra mile and state everything clearly so there’s no uncertainty or confusion.

Be clear and direct with written communication, and encourage questions to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Set Expectations

When working with remote staff or frontline teams in different locations, it’s essential to set expectations from the beginning. This can be details such as working hours, processes, attitude, and more. A lot of this will be covered by an employee contract, but making it clear what’s expected as a remote worker compared to an in-person employee.

You might want to look at how work is tracked, how projects are logged and submitted once complete, interactions with other staff and team members, and even where you expect remote workers to be based on a regular basis. You can do the same as a manager, so staff will know what to expect of you. This creates trust and honesty, which helps with productivity.

Set expectations on remote workers so everyone knows what to expect and when.

Focus on the outcomes

With employees in the office, you can easily track what they’re doing and when. In the extreme, this leads to micro-managing, which can be counter-productive, but it also lets managers identify where more support is needed to meet targets and improve working conditions. For frontline teams and remote workers, this isn’t possible.

Where it’s not possible to account for every moment of the working day, it can be helpful to switch your attention to outcomes. This lets you and your employees look at what matters when it comes to meeting targets and goals. This is where deadlines, processes, and self accountability become much more important.

Focus on the outcomes delivered by staff, rather than how time is spent. Create processes to encourage accountability among your team.

How To Manage A Remote Team With One Tool

Managing a remote team working with customers across different locations can be as easy as managing in-person employees with the right processes, but a good tool can make it even simpler. Internal communication, whether it’s in a team, between departments or company wide, is an essential part of keeping remote workers connected, but there are other tools and functions that work together to keep everyone productive.

However, some tools can handle more than others, and this means less confusion as staff don’t need to work with multiple tools to do their job. Whether it’s file sharing, analysing data, training and development, or other functions, a tool that can streamline processes and be accessed anywhere, on any device, will be a massive advantage.

This is what OurPeople can do for your business. By creating an easy to use communication tool that can also handle a lot of other tasks and processes, you’ll see better employee engagement as there’s less chance of messages being missed. If you’d like to know more about how our platform can help, get in touch with the team.

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