More than one-third of the world’s workforce will be mobile by 2013, according to a new IDC study. And, with more workers away from the office than in the office, today’s supervisors are trying to adapt to a new workplace model.

According to Regus, as we rapidly transition to this new way of working, successfully managing and supporting remote workers will be vitally important to building and sustaining a strong, cohesive team. Managers need to learn how to maximise the productivity of workers they don’t have face-to-face interactions with on a regular basis.
Regus proposes seven steps to help supervisors better manage their distributed workforce;
* Develop a plan – Create a vision for your new workplace initiative that incorporates objectives and benefits to the individual, the team and the organization.
* Establish goals – Implement a results-based management program that will allow managers to easily set and measure goals and objectives for their virtual workforce.
* Understand the nature of the employee’s work – Understand the nature of the work that employees are engaged in:  is it highly structured or unstructured; what levels of interaction are required?  Who do they need to collaborate with?  Are they working independently?
* Maintain regular communication – Lead by example by scheduling regular meetings using the mode of communications that is optimal for the task. For example, audio conferencing for general business updates, videoconferencing for introducing new products or processes and in-person meetings for training or business planning.
* Offer remote employees professional workplaces – Offer those employees working remotely or from home access to professional workplaces when they need it.  Workers need to be assured they can access professional services and support when required. Provide remote or home-based employees with access to professional collaboration space that can be utilized on an as-needed basis.  Whether meeting with colleagues or clients or working on a special project, workers need a professional location where they can come together face-to-face for an hour, a day, a week or even several months.
* Keep your corporate culture – Encourage corporate camaraderie by creating opportunities for your employees to formally and informally socialize, as well as form networks with other professionals.  These connections can reinforce your corporate culture and identity.
* Encourage feedback – Empathize with employees and listen to their concerns regarding working remotely to help secure their buy-in.  Employee input could help improve the execution of the virtual working programme.
A distributed workforce does not have to be a chaotic workforce, says Regus. Businesses can’t risk isolating their mobile workers; they must adjust their management models to accommodate the professional and social demands of an increasingly distributed workforce.