The stay-at-home trend prompted by COVID-19 has made work from home a new way of working. This new trend is showing no signs of waning and it goes without saying that remote working will be in vogue for some more time. According to the LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index data, 55% of US respondents believe that people in their industry can effectively work from home. When looking at digital sectors like finance, marketing, and software, the percentage soars up to 75%.
According to an Upwork economic report, 36.2 million Americans will work virtually by 2025 – an increase of 16.8 million workers from pre-pandemic days.
As an increasing number of employees work from home, managers are left wondering how they are supposed to manage workers they hardly ever see in person effectively. Fortunately, even when there is a limited time to prepare, today, managers can boost the engagement and productivity of remote staff by following some simple, research-based strategies.
This blog outlines common challenges of remote working and how managers can overcome these obstacles and make remote working more productive, manageable, and engaging.
Remote Working Challenges
Whether your company is implementing a remote work policy for the first time or expanding an existing one, remote work comes with a set of difficulties that you need to be aware of.
Here are some common challenges:
Absence of direct supervision
When there isn’t much face-to-face engagement, either between employees or managers, confusion ensues. Managers are worried that workers may not put in more effort or be as productive. Conversely, employees may feel they don’t get proper assistance from managers or other relevant departments.
Difficulty/Lack of information access
Newly hired remote workers could experience difficulty or confusion due to the longer wait times and additional effort needed to receive information from coworkers. Even answering questions that seem simple to a professional who works from home could be a huge barrier.
This problem goes beyond simply task-related tasks and includes potential interpersonal issues among remote coworkers. Because they lack the “shared knowledge” that in-person colleagues have, research suggests that remote workers are less likely to give their counterparts the benefit of the doubt when things are difficult.
Employees who work remotely frequently express loneliness as a drawback because they lack the casual social interaction that comes with working in an office environment. Extroverts experience the impact of solitude more than introverts.
However, isolation can make any employee feel less like they “belong” to their company over time.
Strategies to Help Effectively Manage Remote Workers
Despite the difficulties that come with remote work, including those we’ve already covered above, there are strategies that managers can deploy to make remote working more productive and make remote working a smooth-sailing affair. Here are some strategies that you can follow:
Set clear expectations
Where there are grey areas, trust can be lost. Leaders need to set clear expectations on how remote work should be done. These would include information on everything from how often to check-in to when to use a voicemail instead of reaching out online. This guide will also be an excellent recruiting tool because it will give potential employees a sense of how your company views remote work. It’s as simple to implement as making changes to your company manual.
Establish effective communication channels
Employers should teach their staff excellent communication skills to develop trust in a remote working environment. Establish trust by setting clear work expectations, using standardised performance measurements, and consistently praising and providing feedback on performance. Even beyond developing trust amongst coworkers, frequent and open communication can make a significant difference in a remote work setting.
Offer a variety of communication technology choices: Email alone is inadequate. In other situations, a speedy team effort takes precedence over visual accuracy. Provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality for certain circumstances (e.g., Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.), which can be utilised for time-sensitive communication as well as simpler, less formal talks.
Set dedicated time and methods for team interaction
Recreating regular water cooler discussions for remote workers may need more work. Remote managers should look for team-building chances to involve everyone whenever possible when there is a mix of on-site and off-site workers.
Encourage your remote employees to stay in touch with you and the rest of the team frequently and vice versa. It could initially feel forced or onerous, but it is one of the efficient ways to establish team interactions and make the most of it.
Measurement based on outputs
Measure employee success based on deliverables rather than virtual presence, such as how active individuals are in the company chat or how quickly they can respond to emails. Instead of focusing on how an individual appears to be working, this measuring approach evaluates their job as a whole. Every employee has a unique working style; thus, emphasising the work that is completed will help your remote employees and their managers develop a trusting relationship.
Provide encouragement and emotional support
It is crucial for managers to recognise stress, pay attention to employees’ worries and anxieties, and show empathy for their challenges, especially in the context of a sudden switch to remote work. Ask the newly remote employee how they are doing if they are having trouble but are not expressing any tension or anxiety. A simple question like “How is this remote work arrangement working out for you so far?” can help you extract crucial information you might not otherwise hear.
Research on topics like emotional contagion and emotional intelligence. Discuss issues like helplessness and stress. Adopt a two-pronged strategy, acknowledging the stress and worry that workers may have in challenging situations while also reassuring them of their trust in their teams.
Make way for non-work-related communication
To encourage team members to interact on a personal level, develop a special mix of life experiences, memories, and uplifting media, such as music. It’s tremendously empowering to find unusual points of commonality and to develop a greater understanding and respect for your teammates as people, not simply for the work they do. The smallest distance between two people is, after all, a personal narrative.
Before We Bid Adieu…
Although managing remote teams may differ from managing traditional teams, many of the same principles still apply. Effective management has always relied on meaningful and strategic communication; the only difference in remote culture is that communication has now shifted to online.
As the person in charge of managing a remote workforce, ensure you regularly check in with team members to learn about any problems they may face. In order to establish an example for your team, lead from the front and improve procedures and processes as needed. If done correctly, remote administration shouldn’t be that challenging.
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