The impact of technolgy on management in the workplace

Technology is making it viable for many employees to work off-site. For many reasons people find it better to not go to the office every day and prefer to work from home. In some cases employees are able to do their jobs from anywhere on earth – we call this telecommuting. With employees working from remote loations implies that their bosses are also no longer in face-to- face contact with their employees. So managers have to control, oversee and manage the performance of their staff using methods such as teleconferencing and emails instead of face to face meetings.

Not being in the office also means that employees are isolated from their peers and colleagues who also may be working from remote locations. This separation makes the management of performance a difficult and complex issue that managers have to come to grips with.

Often the changes in the traditional way of managing performance has not kept pace with the new realities and some managers find it hard to adapt. The lack of immediate and physical contact between managers and employees can have a huge impact, especially in the trust relationship that should exist between the boss and staff.

Let us now have a look at what you as a manager can do if faced with this kind of situation.

What can a remote manager do to make things better?

Here are some actions managers can take to make the transition to this new way of working: 

  • Managers must show that they have faith in their employees and show that they believe that employees are able to meet the manager's highest performance expectations. This is done by not responding in a “knee jerk” fashion by prematurely wanting to compensate for the physical separation through introducing more and more onerous control and compliance systems.
  • It would also be dangerous to resort to micro-management techniques when things do not immediately go the way the manager would want it to go. One needs to be a little more laid back in one's approach – especially in the beginning. This does not mean that the manager would be “softer” in dealing with issues – just not to overreact.
  • It is however imperative to stay in touch – using the technological tools available, such as teleconferences (though time-zone differences could make it inconvenient in certain cases); using Youtube and other means such as the good old telephone. One could also use the so-called asynchronous methods (where the recipient can deal with the message in their own time) such as email and websites to stay in touch with staff. 
  • The key to success is to set up a system of regular communication and to stay connected and not to allow any “slip” to occur
  • Handling these contact session are also important – especially when things go wrong. Apart from the communication to be open and honest, it is important that systematic communication takes place every time.

Steps you should follow when dealing with a performance issue

The following steps you may want to follow when a remote employee is not performing as expected. These steps can be part of a telephone converation or be used as a framework to follow in a series of emails:

-         Ensure that the employee is clear about what is currently happening and what is


-         Let the employee know what the impact is if requirements are not met.

-         Ensure that the employee is given ample opportunity to give his/her side of what is

           happening. The employee’s view of the situation in key to solving the problem.

-         Get the employee to contribute ideas to rectify the problem and you’re your thoughts on

           improving the situation.

-         Define and get commitment to the actions and steps that need to be taken to resolve the


-         Set a follow-up date and express your confidence that the matter will be corrected.

Some concluding notes

  • The skilled handling of performance and work habit issues at a distance, without being able to “look ’em in the eyes” takes special care and employees need to feel trusted. Effective management will give employees the confidence and flexibility to work on their own without a manager trying to fill the gap by constant and unstructured nagging.
  • It is also imperative to give regular and clear feedback of how the individual is doing. Managers need to keep their employees in the picture regarding changes that may affect their work. Employees need to be encouraged to keep their managers informed if things are happening that may affect their work. 

The aim is to have a relationship of mutual respect where especially the employee can act autonomously through a manager that is able to build confidence and trust through a healthy relationship.

The Laptop Is The Office

Managing over a Distance using Mobile Devices.

Credit: C.M. Heydenrych