Remote Workers

How to succeed in managing remote teams

Managing people is often difficult enough when you’re directly working near them day in, day out. But when you’re a contractor and your team are here, there and everywhere, it’s a lot more challenging.

In this Article:
Managing remote teams presents unique challenges
Connection is key
Technology can play a role

Managing people well is a pretty important part of running a successful business. Being able to give direction and feedback in the moment is crucial in developing employees, while spending time with them when they’re working gives you a good sense of character, trustworthiness, cultural fit, and everything else that goes hand in hand with nurturing and developing a good team.

For professions that generally operate in one location – a warehouse, a wholesale store, an office-based business – where you’re usually in the presence of your team for large chunks of the week, that’s relatively straightforward.

For electrical contractors, the challenge might be a lot more difficult. If you’re running a business with 10 employees, for example, it’s impossible to see things first-hand all day, every day (unless you only do one large commercial project at a time, but that’s far from the norm).

So, how do you go about managing remote teams?

Managing remote teams – those people who aren’t ‘with’ you every day – isn’t something that necessarily comes easily or naturally. And it can be a challenge.

Don’t let that put you off, says Therese Ravell, Director and Principal Consultant at ImpactHR.

“Making remote management manageable is a learned skill and doesn’t have to be hard or feel bad,” she says.


“It can be really challenging when you manage a team but hardly ever see them. They are at different sites to you or your role may have shifted to one of sales to ensure the pipeline of future work is always full.”

The answer – or at least part of the answer – lies in connection, says Athena Chintis, State President of the Australian HR Institute and HR Director at Cliftons.

“In these types of environments, it’s essential to find reasons to bring everyone together regularly to connect. That could be in a group situation, it could be regular one-on-ones – however you do it, it needs to be consistent and have purpose.”

Managing remote teams… there’s an app for that!

Another way of manufacturing that connection – particularly when it comes to keeping track of the work – is technology.

Brad Gall, Founder and CEO of Brad Gall Electrical in Brisbane, says, “As owner and manager of an HVAC business, I rarely see our technicians who are mostly out on site.

“We’ve found apps to be the answer here. We've tried quite a few and have had great results. They are very easy to work with from a smartphone when you're out, and they only take a second to clock in and out or type in the assignment you took on.

“Better yet, a coordinator can see who’s doing what in real time and easily plan, organise and distribute the workload evenly and in a fair manner. Be it two or 20 people working at the same time, the whole operation is very easy to streamline.”

The important thing to understand here is that this is your responsibility to solve. If you don’t feel as if you’ve got deep insight into every single person working in your business, you need to put plans in place to change that.

“Your team need you to provide detailed instructions, feedback – both ‘do more of’ and ‘do differently’ – and to connect,” Therese says. “And you need to see or hear first-hand how the jobs are going and what the challenges are. Without the interaction, it is easy for things to get out of control quickly.”

Customer and team feedback can be invaluable

Another element that can contribute to successfully managing remote workers, says Athena, is feedback.

“You can send customers surveys after a job to get their feedback on your team and the quality of their work, and you can also get your team members to complete a regular survey just to take the pulse of the business and help you understand where people are at.

“Involving your more senior team members to help you manage people is also a good idea. Ask them for feedback, and when possible, mix teams up, so different people are getting a look at less experienced members of the team.

“They may spot something someone else hasn’t, and addressing it or nurturing it could make all of the difference.”

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