WebcamThree out of five American workers agree they don’t need to be in the office to be productive, according to Mashable, and many businesses are embracing flexible working arrangements. While workers may be able to be just as productive at home as at work, this brings new challenges for managers, who have to supervise employees working remotely.

Challenges of Being a Mobile Team Manager

With a central-based team, members bounce ideas off one another in break rooms and boardrooms. With a mobile team, it’s all too easy for each team member to focus only on his contributions. Over time, team members work from silos without sharing knowledge or seeing the project through to completion. Ideally, all team members should be invested in the entire project life cycle, suggests Perry Hewitt in the Harvard Business Review.

Some mobile teams may also ignore data-driven insights, focusing instead on the aesthetics or emotion behind a decision. As a manager, you’ll need to bring these insights to your team and craft project growth around the numbers, Hewitt suggests. Likewise, you’ll want to establish communication channels and create a communications workflow, notes Brad Egeland of Project Management Tips. It’s easy to quickly check in via instant message or text, but these methods allow for silos. Loop everyone into important conversations via emails, video conferences or online meeting platforms so all parties receive the same information at the same time.

Additionally, workers who opt to embrace ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) put the organization at an increased security risk. If a dad lets his kids use the tablet at home, and one downloads a file that places spyware on the tablet, a hacker may have access to sensitive business data. Unfortunately, only about 33 percent of businesses have policies in place regarding employees’ use of personal devices for work, SecureEdge reports.

Tech Tools for Success

The growth in the same technology that enables British workers to telecommute also provides managers with useful tools to promote collaboration. As a starting point, consider the following tools:

  • Smartphone: This is the basic barrier to entry, a smartphone that allows you to check email, text and make calls from any location. Just make sure all phones are properly secured. The MDM capabilities of Blackberry, for example, allow you to manage all devices.
  • Cloud-based collaborative software: Apps like Google Drive allow employees to view, edit and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other materials and are essential to remote collaboration.
  • E-conferencing tools: There are a host of cloud-based conferencing tools you can use to meet with employees. Small businesses can start with a free utility like Skype and larger businesses can employ a paid utility like GotoMeeting, which comes with a free 30-day trial. Ryan Galloway of FedEx Voice recommends choosing a tool that offers phone conferencing, video conferencing and screen sharing to get the most out of the service.
  • Automated, synched backup: When employees work from home, it is unrealistic to expect them all to FTP files onto an in-house server. Automating an external backup protects the business from data loss, while a cloud-based online backup allows all employees to access materials on the go.

Eric Drake is a VP for a business solutions provider, and is working on a mobile app development company in his spare time.

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