Is Shift Management Needed in a Remote Workplace?

Shift management is the go-to method for managing shift workers.

For instance, employees who come to the office from 8 am to 5 pm, for instance, will have daytime managers. And those that work evenings or nights will have another manager.

Naturally, not every organization breaks up its workday into separate shifts. However, departments that do, such as customer service, rely on shift managers to oversee employees and maintain productivity.

However, the workplace is rapidly changing – especially in 2020, which saw the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In today’s digital workplace, which is becoming more remote and more technology-driven by the day, is shift management still relevant?

Below, we’ll explore the answer to this question and look at a few strategies for managing a remote workforce.

Is Shift Management Still Useful in a Remote Workplace?

Today’s workplace is becoming more complex by the day, which can pose a challenge to traditional management styles.

Here are a few examples of factors that are shifting the way we work:

  • Flex-time gives employees the freedom to start and end their shifts at different times
  • Remote working allows employees to work from home, increasing the flexibility of both time and location
  • Gig workers and independent contractors often perform project-based work, and shift management often does not apply to them

As changes such as these gradually transform the work world, we will need to rethink the way we approach management, shifts, and the workday.

Pros of Shift Management

The above reasons are not enough to abandon shift management. There are, after all, a number of benefits to this structure.

For instance:

  • Shifts keep teams in sync and on the same page
  • Managers can oversee employees more easily when they work in shifts
  • The structure that shifts provide can provide a routine and help keep employees productive and disciplined

At the same time, however, shifts are not always useful in every circumstance.

Cons of Shift Management

Here are a few examples:

  • Shift management does not work for independent contractors or gig workers
  • Flexible work schedules blur shift boundaries and can make them less relevant
  • Shifts can reduce employees’ independence, which can be counterproductive for workers who are more self-reliant and independent

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to use shift management should depend on the company, the department, the organizational culture, who the workers are, and similar factors.

Shift management can certainly be useful, even in a remote work environment, as mentioned.

Yet there are alternative approaches to managing a remote workforce, and some can be just as effective as shift management.

Tips for Adjusting Management Styles for the Remote Workplace

Here are a few ideas on how team leaders can manage virtual teams by blending shift management with asynchronous management techniques:

Check in regularly periodically at set times during the day.

Shifts, routines, and habits all help employees stay disciplined.

Structure, in other words, acts as a guide and a framework that can keep employees focused and disciplined.

In a remote work world, regular check-ins can serve much the same purpose.

Request that workers send in logs or performance reports daily.

Another similar option is to have employees send in reports or logs, rather than checking in with them directly.

This approach still employs a certain amount of structure, but it offers slightly more freedom to workers, which can improve productivity for certain personality types.

Hold regular team meetings at a set time each day.

Regular team meetings, like the two techniques just mentioned, require that employees adhere to a minimal daily routine.

Often, that is enough to help keep employees focused and on track, with or without shifts.

Of course, these meetings can be combined with other routines, such as daily reports, to add yet more structure to the remote workday.

Adjust management styles and work requirements to suit the needs of individual employees.

Studies have shown that remote workers are happier and even work more hours than onsite employees.

Increased flexibility is one of the key reasons for this increased job satisfaction, so managers should take this lesson to heart.

While structure, as mentioned above, can be useful for some employees, others are more productive with fewer rules.

Managers can cater to those employees by offering them more flexibility to work how and when they want.

Focus less on employees’ activity and more on their output.

When working onsite with employees, managers can directly supervise employees and check in with them regularly.

This becomes more difficult in a virtual workplace. Even with the methods covered above, such as regular check-ins, many managers will still want more oversight.

Instead of focusing on employees’ activities, however, managers should consider shifting their focus to employee performance, output, and productivity.

Those metrics, after all, are what impact the bottom line – not whether an employee stays busy or not.

Final Thoughts

Though remote working will become far more common both now and in the post-COVID “next normal,” this trend does not herald the end of shift management.

As we have seen, shift management does have its place and can still be a great way to structure the workday.

However, telecommuting offers an opportunity for managers to test out new management styles and offer employees more freedom in the way they work.

In fact, new approaches to management can actually improve employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity – while also easing the workload for managers.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.