• Romy Hughes

It is important to change how you manage a mobile workforce

The mad rush to get Britain’s employees set up for home working will be one of the defining moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that home working is so easy to setup is perhaps the least surprising part of the whole situation. The more surprising element for many employers has been the recurrence of this question – “how exactly do I manage a mobile workforce?”

Technology is the easy part - you need to change how you manage people too

For many employers, the fact that their workforce can work from home – and still be productive - has been a revelation. Firms are also now learning that they need to change how they manage their people too. The old “office approach” to management – and the many expectations that comes with it (9-5 hours, the perceived notion to always be busy etc.) – no longer work if no one is working from the office.

For some firms, the solution to managing a mobile workforce enabled by technology is to use more technology to monitor their productivity. This is the wrong approach, and is borne out of old fashioned, almost Dickensian thinking. i.e. it is based on the assumption that this now “invisible” workforce will start slacking off because it doesn’t have a boss physically standing over them. This approach simply takes the same 9-5 office mindset and attempts to apply it to homeworking. It will not work.

Embrace the benefits of home working

One of the primary benefits of homeworking is its flexibility. Why should staff work 9-5 if they no longer have an office to travel to? This is where a shift in metrics is required. Too often we value human resources by the amount of time they contribute. We price a person’s time by the hour. But surely the most important metric for an employee is their productivity, not how much time they spend in a physical place? So, if productivity can be maintained or even improved with “non-standard” hours and unconventional workwear, why wouldn’t you support it?