Four tips for managing remote workers

The greatest challenge in managing a remote workforce is communicating with those off-site workers, according to a new Robert Half Technology survey, which asked more than 2,300 chief information officers (CIOs) about the difficulties they face in managing a worker they can’t see face to face.

Thirty per cent listed communication as the top challenge, followed by productivity and technology challenges at 22% each. The survey respondents work for US companies with 100 or more employees.

Although the survey was specific to tech workers, its themes can be applied across functions – including finance, where the use of shared services centres and remote workers is common.

“As remote work arrangements become increasingly popular, managers are often concerned that camaraderie and collaboration could suffer due to lack of regular, in-person interaction,” John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, said in a news release. “Even senior executives in a technology-forward department like IT can feel disconnected from remote teams because of limited face time with staff and lack of visibility into how work is being accomplished.”

The company offered four tips for managing remote workers:

  • Outline expectations: Let remote employees know how often you’d like them to check in, and whether that should be by phone or email. Set clear goals and benchmarks to help those workers stay on task.

  • Leverage technology tools: Make sure remote employees have access to the right communication, such as teleconferencing or online meeting tools. Confirm that all team members can stay in touch and access information quickly through file-sharing.

  • Create opportunities for face time: Help remote workers stay connected by requesting that they work on-site when possible, such as attendance for important meetings. Also, “virtual face time” can be achieved through videoconferencing. This interaction, if a face-to-face meeting can’t be arranged, is often better than phone or email exchanges.

  • Check in with remote employees regularly: What remote work arrangements offer in terms of flexibility they also can take away in terms of balancing work and personal time. Encourage employees to unplug, which can aid productivity overall.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

How High-Performing Companies Plan to Globalise the Finance Function”: Many leading multinational companies, including Dutch electronics company Philips, British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline and German consumer and industrial products company Henkel, have begun to globalise their finance functions.

Don’t Set Finance Talent Adrift, Even If Business Is Going Offshore”: Core accounting remains a requirement in business, but as those duties are handled more and more by outsourced work, companies are seeking more strategic analysis from the finance department.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.