How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees.
This is the second of a three-part series discussing the sudden transition to Remote Work that many of us are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19, many employers have been forced to allow their employees to work from home. For employers and employees that did not previously have a work-from-home program in place, the transition to working remotely has been sudden and even challenging. But lower-level employees are not the only people who have had to adjust. Managers are now required to effectively lead their teams without their regular face-to-face meetings or interactions. This has been a dramatic shift for everyone involved.
How do managers adapt to managing remotely to foster productivity and maintain employee morale?
First, it is important for managers to set guidelines for communication and collaboration. The frequency and mode of official communications need to be implemented in a way that the whole team can efficiently and effectively provide updates and complete their work. At the same time, managers will need to ensure that they can implement appropriate methods of supervision. Whether these interactions with employees will take place once a day or twice a week will depend on their level and the autonomy they can handle. However, there is a fine line between checking in and micromanaging.
There are key differences between official and unofficial communications.
The most common mode of official communications should typically be video conferencing, especially for more social employees. To some extent, this allows for the face to face interaction many employees need to boost morale and reduce their sense of isolation while giving managers some reassurance that their direct reports are happy and productive.
Unofficial communications can be more informal. One of the biggest issues with working remotely is not having the ability to pop into someone’s office and ask a question or run an idea by them. Therefore, having the technology and systems set up to quickly ping coworkers or even allowing employees to send a text can help alleviate that issue. The key is having several methods of communication open to collaborate effectively depending on the need and preference.
The keys to effectively managing remote workers are consistency and creating a fun virtual work environment.
This is not the time for a laid-back approach. Managers must be proactive and reach out consistently to create a sense of teamwork. It is also important to virtually create a fun and collaborative team atmosphere, especially with official team updates. Leaving some time at the beginning of meetings to catch up on daily life and non-work items is important to keep that sense of camaraderie that makes teams so effective. During the current pandemic, many companies are hosting virtual happy hours, which is a great way to keep teams engaged and reduce isolation issues. Some companies also do a virtual “water-cooler” where three or four employees are grouped together virtually on a Friday morning to talk about anything but work.
Do not forget to offer emotional support and encouragement to employees. This all may seem trivial but developing this culture will pay big dividends in employee productivity and ultimately in the overall success of an organization.
For the first time, working remotely is a reality for many companies. Those that transition well to the new environment will most likely survive through this pandemic. Moreover, the ones that see this as an opportunity for growth and take advantage of it in the long-term will be able to develop competitive advantages in their respective industries. They will be a stronger organization with happier employees and have access to a more skilled workforce that can work from anywhere in the future. The benefits of working remotely have been well documented. Now is the time to position your company to take advantage of this movement.
By Jacob Kerby, Senior Associate
RVR is helping numerous clients with the transition to remote work on both the technology and management aspects. Please contact Jacob Kerby at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in discussing further.