The world we have found ourselves living in right now is unsure, scary, brand new, and exciting all at once.
All of our lives have changed in one way or another over the past year due to the crisis of Covid-19, with the majority of us having to adjust to working from home.
Moving your organization from an office setting to a makeshift workplace is definitely not easy, especially when it is abrupt and unexpected.
There are so many inevitable challenges that both employees and managers come up against: slips in concentration, distractions, loneliness, ineffective communication, and much more.
However, remote working doesn’t have to equal disaster. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to managing your remote workers effectively so that you have one less thing to worry about. Living through a pandemic is difficult enough without your business having to struggle.
Keep reading and you’ll find out just how to identify any potential issues that your company could be experiencing due to having to work remotely, and a definitive list of tried-and-tested ways to combat these issues.
Common Challenges Managing Remote Work:
There are many challenges that you may well come up against when you begin managing your newly remote employees.
We’ve outlined the key issues that you could face, as it’s always best to be aware of them. There’s no need to worry though, we’ve also put together a handy list of tricks for you all about how managers can best support their team remotely.
Many people who work in roles like remote illustration jobs or remote SEO jobs may be more used to working from their homes. However, for the vast majority of staff, it will be an entirely new experience to work for their organization from a distance.
Identifying challenges is the first step towards solving them. Many of these issues are somewhat inevitable due to the nature of remote work.
Initially, one of the hardest challenges that you’ll come up against is learning how to effectively communicate with your employees.
Besides the obvious problem of not being able to see the people you work with and interact with them on a daily basis, there are more implicit communication issues that your managers need to tackle to keep your employees happy.
Firstly, a lot of the intent behind online messages can get lost in translation as it can be hard to detect someone’s mood or tone from a simple text or email. This is especially if you are communicating with a member of the team with who you are not as well acquainted!
Failing to communicate regularly with your staff can have disastrous consequences. Top tips for avoiding this include never canceling on a team call or one-on-one check-ins. Any cancellations, unless totally necessary, will cause your employees to lose confidence in your business and feel as though their time has been wasted.
Making people feel important and listened to is vital within a successful company, and effective communication is the key to this.
With remote working comes a new sense of independence and responsibility for your team members, which many will struggle with.
A lack of face-to-face supervision and managerial feedback can be tough for all involved. For supervisors, there will be worries that employees are not working as hard or efficiently as they should be, and for employees, there will be struggles without proper access to the support and communication that supervision provides.
Remote working is a new concept for the vast majority of people, and so it is likely that we’re going to slip up. This could mean that a lack of in-person supervision which in turn, reduces productivity and confidence.
3. Access to information
A huge challenge to be overcome is the barriers to access to information. Many newly remote workers will end up spending a lot of time trying to locate information from the company or from co-workers in a way that they wouldn’t in an office. Everything takes longer: sending an email requires waiting for a response, whereas leaning over a desk to ask your colleague something takes seconds.
Limited access to information will not do any favors for the culture of your organization or the confidence of your staff.
This is why it is so important that you have the best software and tools, as with outdated technology or poor organization your team members will struggle to find information that they need, become confused, and possibly make harmful mistakes.
4. Social isolation
A very sad reality of working remotely for many is an impinging feeling of social isolation. Spending the majority of your time by yourself trying to concentrate without any face-to-face interaction can definitely take its toll.
This can be especially hard if you are used to working in an environment where you are surrounded by people. To go from this to being somewhat isolated can be a difficult and sudden transition. A potential side-effect of this isolation over an extended period of time is that some workers feel a diminished sense of belonging to their company.
5. Home Distractions
Somewhat unavoidable is the problem of home distractions with remote work. Some people are more equipped than others to be able to work despite distractions, but the majority of us will succumb to them to an extent.
A sudden transition to remote work means that many will not have a dedicated workspace ready to use in their homes. This means that they will be working in communal spaces or areas which are not conducive to concentration.
We must also take into consideration that more than one member of a given household could be working from home, which can increase the possibility of home distractions.
Common distractions around the house include family members or friends, parenting responsibilities, pets, and loud noises. Fostering a level of closeness between employees and with managers can help to create a culture of openness in which everyone can share their best tips for how to avoid getting distracted.
How Managers Can Support Remote Employees
After reading of the challenges that can arise from managing remote teams, you may be feeling worried about the future of your business. We’re here to tell you that there’s no need for concern!
All of the aforementioned issues can be remedied. As long as you have the right tools and attitudes, there is no reason not to be able to still connect with your employees and keep them moving with positivity and an excellent work ethic!
We’ve outlined some of the ways in which you can combat common issues with remote working, whether this be with part-time remote jobs or roles which are more traditionally suited to an office environment.
1. Have a Daily Structured Routine
It is absolutely essential to come up with and stick to a daily structured routine. This should be implemented and monitored by supervisors to ensure that some sense of normality and system is adhered to.
An excellent and simple method to incorporate routine into how your employees work is to schedule a daily check-up via a video or audio call using software like Zoom. Some supervisors prefer this to be a series of one-on-one calls, whilst others would rather have a call with all team members. Topics to be covered during these calls include asking how work is progressing, if anyone has concerns or questions, and laying out plans of action for future projects or tasks.
Any way in which you want to check up on your staff is valid, as long as it is pre-planned and regular. This gives your staff a sense of structure reminiscent of their old work environment and lets them know that you are there if they need to communicate anything to you.
Another benefit of incorporating a daily structured routine into the lives of your teams is that managers will get to interact with employees potentially more than they did before the work environment went remote. An employee will now feel like they can put a name to a face for many of their colleagues which can be a great step in bringing the business together and encouraging trust and productivity.
2. Provide Tech Solutions
The days in which email alone was a sufficient means to communicate with colleagues are over. Managing your new remote workers requires a more sophisticated way to communicate.
Those who work from home benefit from having multiple technology solutions, such as video conferences and direct messages. There are so many tech solutions out there, it’s just a matter of choosing the ones that work for you and your employees the best.
Managing remote workers makes the arranging of meetings much harder. You can no longer walk into a room and round everyone up for a talk. Instead, you’ll have to find the right technological solutions that work for everyone. The best tools will enable managers and employees to stay on the same page and organize part of your time for you.
A communication tool that is audio-visual such as video conferencing or phone calls can have many advantages for workers, such as allowing for increase shared knowledge and reducing a sense of social isolation.
What’s more, there are much better ways of expressing particular tones and intents than sending a rudimentary email. What can be much better is communicating through video or by using GIFs and emoticons on a messaging application such as Slack.
3. Clear Terms and Outlined Brief
In order to further maintain structure and efficiency, it is a good idea for supervisors to outline clear briefs and terms.
An excellent system that supervisors can use to do this is by setting rigid expectations for their teams in terms of communication and workload. For example, let your workers know when is the best time for them to contact you, when to expect video conference calls, and when it is appropriate to use direct messaging, email, and so on.
Organizing rules of engagement is a great method of keeping consistency within your business and can be very satisfying then carried out efficiently.
It is important to establish clear times and an outlined brief as soon as possible when managing remote employees. This way every member of the team will be able to communicate effectively with each other, share information as needed, and set the tone for what is expected of them while working at home.
If you work within a large organization, there is a chance that members of your staff will be working in different time zones. Keep this in mind when creating schedules and check-ins, as not every employee will be available at the same time as others.
Many employees struggle with working remotely initially because they fail to adapt to no longer being in their workplaces. Making everything clearly outlined and detailed, with tips for them to follow during their first time working without direct contact is a great method of inspiring confidence and providing support.
4. Social Engagement
One of the easiest and most important ways that managers can support remote workers is through engaging in social interaction whenever possible. A simple means to do this is allowing time at the beginning or end of a work call to discuss non-work related topics, such as how everyone is doing, or what they are up to.
It may seem obvious, but social engagement can do wonders for any business, remote or otherwise! Going from working in an office surrounded by people to being stuck inside by yourself all day can be really tricky, so managers should always try and encourage social interaction.
Human beings are social creatures, so at the very least your colleagues should all know each other by first name and be comfortable chatting. Failure to foster social engagement in your organization can have serious health impacts on your staff.
A long-term impact of loneliness (which can be triggered from remote work) is the development of a depressive or anxious state. A good manager will be aware of this and be actively working towards avoiding their teams reaching such a state.
Not only this but encouraging employees to interact with each other can also be effective in reducing feelings of social isolation and increasing mutual knowledge. Virtual events or even informal chats over a messaging app or on the phone can be really helpful in building up trusting relationships.
5. Team Player
As a manager, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to distance yourself from your employees too much. You want to be personable and approachable in order to cultivate a culture of transparency and openness in your office. The alternative to this is coming across as either intimidating and far-removed from the work and lives of the employee, which is definitely not desirable.
To combat this common issue, supervisors should engage with their employees by offering encouragement, work advice, and emotional support if necessary. In the context of remote work, where many people experienced an abrupt and stress-inducing change to their lives, it is important for managers to empathize with this and listen to their employees.
Easy ways to become more of a team player include encouraging social interaction amongst colleagues, taking the time to listen to concerns or feedback from an employee, and providing reassurance and resources when needed.
Many companies who work remotely will organize an event once a week or fortnight as a way to check in and be present with its employees. A great way to do this is by hosting virtual parties or starting a club where managers and employees can send a book or article they enjoyed recently, for example.
Trying to manage many employees remotely for the first time is challenging and can feel difficult or frustrating at times. The majority of companies who have had to go remote in the past year did not plan on doing so, meaning that they had to overcome many unknown dilemmas and hurdles.
It is a learning process for everyone within a business to figure out how to effectively work from home, but it is the job of managers to ensure that the transition to working remotely for the first time is successful and as smooth as possible.
However, it is entirely possible for companies to be just as successful with a remote team as they were within an office setting. Some of the rules and methods may be a little different or unconventional, but the fundamentals of managing a team remain the same.
Make sure to follow the guide that we’ve given you, and always be aware of any challenges that either you or your employees are facing. The most important part about managing remote teams is making sure that everyone is happy and actively wanting to continue working. Ensuring this means sticking to the tips we’ve outlined for you above, and always remembering to be a team member.
We will get through the Covid-19 pandemic together, and if you manage your newly remote workers well, your company can come out the other side more successful than ever!
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(Published as part of a content partnership. Originally published here.)