The entire world has gone into quarantine surrounding the uncertainties posed by the outbreak of the COVID-19. Companies, in order to safeguard the health of the employees, have decided to let them work from home. The new remote working policies around the world have for the first-time separated managers and their employees.
It is always preferable to establish a clear remote working policy and training well in advance. However, in times of a crisis such as this global pandemic, the required level of preparation was not feasible for most companies and managers.
Hence, we have researched for specific steps that, if taken by remote managers, can help in improving employee engagement and productivity without any extra efforts.
The Common Challenges of Remote Working
At the very beginning managers will be required to understand the factors that make working from home challenging for the team. So, what are the challenges you should be careful about?
The Lack of Proper Supervision
With the workforce going remote, managers, as well as employees, will be facing a lack of in-person interaction and guidance. Some managers will be anxious about some of their teammates not giving his best performance when working from home. On the other hand, employees will feel the reduced access to managerial communication and support – to an extent where they might feel that their manager is not in tune with their needs, and thereby, are no more supportive.
- Reduced Access to Information
The employees who are new to the entire concept of remote working will feel astonished at the time taken and the effort given to locate information from their managers or coworkers – even if they are the simplest of information. This often leads to a state of interpersonal challenges among the remote workers. Research throws light upon the fact that the lack of mutual or shared knowledge among remote workers might lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding that will lead to loss of business productivity.
- The Case of Isolation and Loneliness
Given the lockdown scenario and self-isolation, disconnectedness is one of the most common complaints arising out of the new remote workforce. This is happening especially because these employees are missing the level of interaction they had with their managers and their coworkers in the office. The most affected by this are the extroverts, who have no means now to connect with the others the way they used to apart from audio or video calls.
- Distractions at Home are Real
Often at times, we are given a terrible representation of how it feels like working from home – sitting on a sofa with a laptop or typing on a laptop while holding a baby with a smile. That is not how it works, right? I would encourage you to ensure that your remote workers have a dedicated workspace in their homes to be able to function properly. And given this sudden transition into virtual working, there are chances that your remote workforce may be faced with the challenge of suboptimal workspace, and in some cases, unexpected parenting responsibilities. Apart from this, your workers might also be distracted by their family and home demands. As a remote manager, you might have your workers bogging down due to a lot of distractions during this unplanned and sudden work-from-home transition.
The Pro Tips for You
Although remote working may be fraught with these common challenges, there are also some quick and easy things you can adopt as a manager for heightened effectiveness. These actions include:
- Establishing the Rules of Engagement
Your newly remote workers become more efficient and productive when you set expectations for the means, the frequency, and a scheduled timing for communication with the team. For instance, I am always keeping my team engaged through videoconferencing for daily meetings, and only calling up my teammates whenever any urgent need is arising. You should also let your employees know about the best time and way to reach you during your working hours. Keeping an eye out for proper sharing of information through the best means of communication is something that would help you a lot working as a remote manager during this period of lockdown.
- Carving Out Opportunities for Remote Social Interactions
One of the best means to help your teammates stay connected is by structuring ways for employees to socialize beyond work topics. This is true for all remote workers, especially for the extrovert ones who feel that the coronavirus has suddenly transitioned them out of the office. The easiest way to do so is by leaving some time right at the beginning of a team call to discuss anything apart from work, and that should definitely not include the rising tide of positive cases of COVID-19 patients, as that would give the first-morning call a negative start! What I do with my team is to ask everyone to be ready with their favorite morning beverage and talk to them about how I learned making corn sludge with melted cheese! These sorts of virtual socializing reduce the sense of being isolated and promote a sense of belonging.
- Encourage Your Remote Workforce and Lend Emotional Support
Acknowledging stress and listening to your teammates’ concerns and anxieties is important, especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote working. You should ask each of them how they are coping with the situation, whether they are facing any challenges, etc. And once they start sharing their points of concern, listen carefully and restate it back to ensure that they are being heard. This may very well be the starting point of your team calls. With this kind of support from you, your employees will be taking up this remote working challenge with a focus and a sense of purpose.
With all this said, let me assure you that “you’ve got this!” Follow these simple yet effective tips and see a stark difference in the way you lead your new remote team to perform far better.