Managing A Remote Workforce

Remote working has been on the rise for the better part of a decade. Some companies have embraced it, while others have scaled back their remote working policies. That was until last month when virtually the entire country moved to a remote working arrangement leaving executives to figure out what’s required when managing a remote workforce.

According to one Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, there are a number of common challenges employees face when working remotely. These include a lack of face-to-face supervision, and lack of access to information, social isolation, and distractions at home. 

Managers worry that employees working remotely will not be as productive or efficient, which is not necessarily true. Employees struggle getting the information they need in a timely manner, find communication more difficult sans traditional context, and often feel lonely without the normal level of connection provided by an office environment. The article recommends a number of simple ways managers can help employees feel connected. 

  • Establish Structured Daily Check-Ins

These could be one-on-one calls or team calls, as long as they are consistent. They provide the chance for employees to ask questions, share any concerns on active projects, and generally connect with each other.  

  • Provide Communication Options

Don’t rely on just email for communication. Make sure you have chat and video options as well. Zoom, Teams, Hangouts, are three options that provide the virtual face-to-face remote workers can use to connect with each other.

  • Establish Rules of Engagement

By creating a common process, you can manage expectations. This can help employees better communicate with you as well as with each other. Some people will find they are more productive early in the day, while others may be productive night-owls. But knowing how and when meetings and connecting with others in advance, reduces stress and improves productivity.

  • Encourage Social Interactions

Make sure you allow for typical socializing at the beginning or end of team calls. Or schedule virtual happy hours or the like. Now more than ever, employees are looking for opportunities to connect with each other about non-work things. This happens organically at the office, but needs to be considered when working remotely.

  • Be Positive and Supportive

This might be the most important thing you can do as a leader during an unexpected remote working situation. Employees are understandably anxious, stressed, and unsure about what happens next. Check-in with them about how they are doing personally. Be authentic and listen to them. Play back what you hear from them to be sure you’re clear about what they’re telling you. They are the focus of the conversation and looking to you for cues about how to react. Be positive and supportive.

According to the article, “Effective leaders take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmation of their confidence in their teams, using phrases such as “we’ve got this,” or “this is tough, but I know we can handle it,” or “let’s look for ways to use our strengths during this time.” With this support, employees are more likely to take up the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus.”

If you have questions or suggestions you would like to share on steps you’re taking to manage your remote workforce, please send us a note