A remote workforce is a group of employees within an organization who primarily work off-site from a location other than a traditional office. While there’s no consensus on a minimum number, the term “remote workforce” usually indicates that there are several or more employees who usually work from a remote location. In some companies, all employees work remotely, an approach sometimes referred to as “remote only.” Others allow most employees to primarily work from another location, but still may have a few people who are regularly required to perform their jobs from a centralized office. This approach is known as “remote-first.”
Remote workforce management is the practice of effectively leading and managing remote employees. This typically comprises a mix of communication, processes and technology specifically designed for leading a productive remote workforce. Companies that are more fully invested in successful remote workforce management also often offer substantive training around relevant remote work topics, both for managers and employees.
Done right, remote work can be highly productive. Here are some tips and best practices for effectively managing a remote workforce:
Many of the challenges involved in managing remote employees are rooted in the lack of physical, in-person interaction. This can make it harder for team leaders and others to “read the room” and see the warning signs of common workforce issues such as low morale, burnout, interpersonal conflict, miscommunication or lack of communication.
Other common remote workforce management challenges include:
Technology issues such as poor Internet connections (or outages) can also create remote workforce management challenges.
Managing remote employees can lead to more flexible, dynamic teams that aren’t tethered to a specific physical location in order to do their jobs. This means you can hire and build teams with people based all over the world. This can boost employee satisfaction and retention, too, when hiring people who prefer remote work to going to a traditional office. Modern technology tools also make successful remote workforce management far more attainable than in the past.
“Remote workforce” and “mobile workforce” are related terms, but there’s a distinction between them. A mobile workforce is one particular type of remote workforce, but usually refers specifically to a group of employees who regularly work in the field or a variety of different locations.
A good example would be service technicians who do most of their work at customer sites, such as residences or commercial buildings. Mobile workforce management is the branch of remote workforce management focused specifically on leading teams of mobile employees. It also reflects the fact that many mobile or field employees can do their entire jobs from outside of the central office, thanks to a mix of mobile infrastructure, devices and applications.