How do you manage an invisible workforce?

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You come into the office and you see a sea of empty desks. That’s OK though because you’ve implemented flexible working and are using unified communications systems to ensure that everybody is working when they are supposed to.

But you’re suspicious that they might be enjoying the sun, watching their Sky Plussed Wimbledon final on a loop…how do you know they’re not?

Recruit the right people

The truth is that handled badly, unified communications can bring as many difficulties as opportunities. It starts with recruiting the right people and ensuring that they have ‘bought into’ the idea of working flexibly and how it actually means ‘working’. This is something that has to be achieved without standing over them.

Obviously the right technology will help. Soft phones and headsets that work in tandem and can be rolled out painlessly are good, as are the more intensive UC environments which incorporate video and social media as well as other media (no doubt the mix will be added to further in the future).

Something that became apparent at the Unified Communications Expo show at Olympia earlier this year, though, as well as during conversations with interviewees for case studies before and since, is that it’s not just about the technology. The managers have to form some sort of trust and also understand how to measure the output in the new environment.

Actually the key to all of this is in that last sentence – you measure people by output rather than face time. One director I spoke to was not confident in his employees: how do I know, he asked, that they’re not all watching daytime TV when I’m paying for their time? The answer is that he didn’t – and nor should she care. Imago Techmedia, the company that publishes this bulletin and runs both Unified Communications Expo and IP Expo, doesn’t know how long I or my counterpart for the IP bulletin take to write these epics, nor are they particularly interested. They pay us for the outputs – that’s what you do with freelancers, and that is how staff will need to be treated increasingly as they become mobile.

Of course there are other metrics. The remote worker who’s a footie fanatic mustn’t miss out on the staff outing to West Ham United’s latest match because he or she didn’t see the noticeboard. Video conferencing will help make them feel less isolated and of course abstaining from the office environment doesn’t have to be 100% of the time.

What do you do to manage a staff you can’t see? We would welcome your input on our LinkedIn page

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