It’s no secret that the role of the business manager has been evolving in recent years. The introduction of hybrid and remote work models have prompted professionals across the globe to reevaluate their management style, both when it comes to overseeing their teams as well as completing their own workloads from the relative comfort of their home offices.
But there is a lot more to business management in the digital age than just responding promptly to your daily influx of employee emails. How much more? Here are just a few of the more pressing transformations that business managers have had to contend with over these past few years of managing remote or decentralised workforces.
Managing contract and freelance workers
Naturally, the first consideration that needs to be made is the unique task of managing contract and freelance workers. Unlike full-time staff members, these casual and freelance workers have a little bit more autonomy over their workloads. This can simultaneously provide business managers with more and less work, depending on whether or not their processes for managing casual workers are as tight as they can be.
For instance, managers can use financial management software to automatically generate online invoices for their freelance workers, or they can type out individual invoices whenever they may need to send them out. And there are other ways that your business can provide its freelancers with support. If you have any freelancers that are fresh out of uni and are still finding their footing, they’ll surely appreciate working with a business that’s provided them with resources on how to apply for an ABN or how to produce work for select industries. These resources can allow your freelancers to find enrichment in their roles with you, which will also increase the likelihood of them sticking around.
Using project management software can also provide freelancers with the professional infrastructure that they need to complete work at a consistently high standard. Harnessing the power of project management software can allow you to assign freelancers tasks with clear due dates rather than having to oversee work from the convoluted environment that is email threads. This streamlined workflow can naturally help freelancers and contract workers feel a lot more supported.
Simply put, business managers are expected to ‘work smarter’ and not harder when it comes to managing staff online – especially if you are hoping to take full advantage of the gig economy. So demonstrate that you’re investing in your freelancers and contract workers. If you’re able to do that, then you’ll likely be able to enjoy all the benefits that accompany maintaining a pool of consistent freelancers who are familiar with the work that needs to be done and the expectations that your business has for them.
Mastering the art of digital communication
Speaking of convoluted email threads, we’re likely all too familiar with the impossible task that is communicating tone over text messages. People are simply too busy to analyse your digital communications, so if you are one to speak in subtext, now is the time to stop. Granted, this may be a little too direct here, but the cold hard truth is that the most effective way to communicate through digital channels is to speak in real-world terminology and lay down the line as directly and concisely as you can.
This applies to providing feedback as a manager as well. If there are any issues or corrections that need to be made with your employees’ work, then it’s always best to let them know as promptly as you can rather than simply opting to make these corrections yourself. Whilst editing on your own can remove the need to provide formal feedback, this method isn’t sustainable in the long term as it’ll just result in you constantly receiving work that doesn’t adhere to your own standards.
And of course, this same principle of maintaining direct communications should apply to client comms as well. If you can maintain a communication style that is easy to engage with, then you can be rest assured that your digital communications will be fully absorbed at every turn, allowing you to become not just a better remote manager but a more capable professional overall as we delve deeper into the age of the digital.
Finding balance in your evolving management style
Transitioning to managing a workforce from a traditional office to a remote or hybrid work model naturally comes with fighting the urge to micromanage. After all, it can be difficult to feel like you’re even performing your duties as a manager if you’re not touching base with your staff during WFH days.
In reality, however, your staff are likely loving the opportunity to practise autonomy here, and are engaging more with their own work styles and patterns with the space that comes with working from home. So why don’t you just take this same opportunity to discover who you are as a manager?
There are different types of management styles, ranging from transformative managers to empathetic managers and many others. Understanding what type of manager you are can help you become a more effective department head over the course of your own career. And it goes without saying that your staff can benefit from this self-discovery as well, as they’ll be able to maintain the privilege of having a leader who moves with greater certainty.
Finetuning processes in a decentralised workplace
Knowing what type of manager you are can also help with this next component of working in the digital age. We are of course, talking about amending the way that your organisation works even with a decentralised workforce.
All good managers know that solid processes are the lifeblood of any organisation. If you’re concerned that a shift into a hybrid or fully remote work model may come at the sacrifice of your company’s tight processes, then now is the perfect time to simply communicate your perceived value of these processes to your staff. By opening up a dialogue, you can effectively reevaluate your processes and figure out collectively how best they can be translated into a hybrid or remote workplace set-up.
Remember too that your processes belong to your staff just as much as they belong to you as the department head. With that, if any member of your team expresses room for improvement anywhere along your ‘production line’, take that feedback into consideration. The best processes are often processes that have been tailored to fit the needs of those who use them.
Making concessions to help maintain your work/life balance
Finally, remember that managing a remote workforce means responding to unseen variables in the lives of your employees, be they freelancers or full-timers. As much as we try to compartmentalise, our home offices are still very much part of our homes, and we cannot expect our staff to be at their desks 24/7, just as they can’t expect the same from us. The last thing anybody wants is for their employees to experience burnout.
On that same note, it’s normal for deadlines to get pushed back or for correspondence to go missed – especially in the context of freelancers who may be working other jobs too. The best thing that you can do as a manager is to just be understanding and make concessions where you feel that it’s fair to do so. If any employees take advantage of that kindness, then they can live with the consequences that you’ll put in place as a result. But if somebody’s given you no reason to lose their trust, then take that into account.
And remember that workers value organisations that respect their rights to maintain a work/life balance. In meeting your employees halfway, you’ll find that you’re contributing to the development of a workplace culture that can ultimately reduce your staff turnover rate. That means your processes, your department’s output quality, and even your invoicing habits don’t have to change, and you can just enjoy your core workload from your own home office set-up.
All things considered, managing a remote or hybrid workforce isn’t too far removed from managing an in-house team. This new generation of business managers just need to chart their own path, but this is so much more of an opportunity than it is a cross to bear.