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Being an Effective E-Manager

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 3 Mar 2014 | comments*Discuss
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‘E-Manager’ - a term coined some years ago to reflect the trend of managing a workforce who are now working from home (via various kinds of communication) or in other places such as team members in other countries. While still belonging to the same company and despite possibly having autonomous roles to perform, employees are still very much part of a team and need to be managed as such.

Killing the Myth of Remote Management Being a ‘New Thing’

Some ‘old school’ members may seem horrified that workers are allowed to work away from the 'office'. Who is keeping an eye on them and how can a company be sure that they’re getting the job done? The truth is that the concept of ‘remote management’ is hardly new. It’s more a matter of geographical perception than anything else.

For example, for years, workers have been managed remotely in a number of professions – truck drivers, field sales, cleaners and caterers for example. Managers too, are often in meetings for much of the day or out themselves travelling between offices or factories, so the practice of leaving staff to get on with things has been expected for many years. The only difference now being that via ICT your workforce doesn’t all have to be together in the same office. They can be situated anywhere and yet still be linked together at the same time.

Being an Effective E-Manager

These days, IT and Mobile have enabled managers to do a number of things which would only have previously been possible in an office-based environment - handing bits of paper back and forth and through face-to-face conversations. Record keeping and monitoring are just two of the most obvious examples but both supervision and even motivational techniques can be carried out by an e-manager with a team or on a one-to-one basis even if they are on opposite sides of the world.

Management skills are still crucial, however, and an effective e-manager will maintain a good degree of personal contact with his team encouraging regular dialogue with all his workers and for his workers to engage in that practice with colleagues too. This is even more important for those workers who might find working remotely and on their own quite daunting and who miss the social contact which a conventional working environment affords them.

A good e-manager should avoid the tendency to rely solely on written technology and ensure proper conversations take place on the phone and via skype/video conferencing. It’s still 'good to talk' - and sometimes quicker than sending an e-mail/text where 'meaning' can become skewed.

There’s Still Room for Face-to-Face Contact

Managers and teams who operate in this way aren’t, for the most part, faceless names simply performing their role away from the office. Face-to-face interaction still takes place but an effective e-manager knows how to render this effective. For example, it simply makes no point for a worker to drive a 20 mile round trip to the office just to pick up his work schedule for the next month – that can be sent over a network. But an e-manager will call together his team in person from time to time to hold Team Building Exercises, perhaps including ‘away-days’ playing paint ball or going ten pin bowling for example. They might also be called in for Appraisals and to attend other special events.

An important feature of being a good e-manager, therefore, is to distinguish and separate those areas where face-to-face meetings are the best option as opposed to the many aspects of work which can be conducted just as effectively, if not more so, through the use of IT and telephony systems.

Other Issues

An effective e-manager will also understand the importance of health and safety issues. For example, if you’re working at a work station at the office with all of the health and safety implications that entails, it’s important to recognise that this is equally as significant when using a work station at home. Illness has no concept of where a person works so a good e-manager will also know what all of his team are up to at any given time and will ensure he has enough coverage on the network should somebody be off work sick. He’ll also make sure that remote workers get the same pay and conditions as any office based staff with the same access to training, promotion and career development.

In the 21st century, more and more companies are waking up to see the vast potential in using a remote work force where it is possible to do so and in embracing that, so there will be an increasing need for skilled e-managers to tie that all together to produce a skilled, remote workforce all working towards a common team goal, wherever they may be located in the world.

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