How to manage newly remote employees
By Vanessa Cole
In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have shifted to working remotely. In order to maintain productivity, managers are tasked with ensuring that all employees are capable of producing their required work in compromised conditions. Communication, innovation and precaution are the keys to ensuring that your business and employees stay healthy and efficient.
Set expectations and communicate
- Create clear guidelines and expectations. We’ve said it before (BLOG2: communication) and we’ll say it again: if you’re not overcommunicating, you’re not communicating enough. Share your exact step by step expectations with employees – leave nothing to interpretation! While normally you might be able to trust that they are all on the same page as you, distance can drastically hinder that, so laying out exactly what you need done is the best way to eliminate confusion. Be sure to also specify preferred methods of communication as well as appropriate response times.
- Establish a clear daily/weekly structure. This includes scheduled check-ins and group calls, regardless of whether there are pressing matters to discuss. Maintaining a consistent routine helps to keep your communications grounded and reduces confusion. Have employees record daily duties and accomplishments for you to review and monitor.
- Provide work from home advice. Understand that many of your employees are new to working remotely and that adjusting may be difficult. Provide them with materials to help ease their transition. Our blogs (BLOG1) offer specific advice for Work From Home situations.
- Engage. Engage. Engage. You wouldn’t walk into a shared workspace without saying hello to your coworkers, would you? Practice engaging with each employee every day, even if it is a simple check in on the status of their report or asking how their day is. Building rapport is important for a healthy workplace culture, whether you’re in the office or not, and taking the time to personally inquire about your employees will boost morale. To encourage water-cooler chat amongst your employees, creating a low-effort chat such as a channel on Slack is a great way to keep everyone connected.
- Have a digital open door policy. Make your availability known to your employees, whether it be through sharing a schedule, or changing your status to “available” on online communications. Be sure to encourage your employees to reach out if they have any questions, concerns, or just want to stay in touch.
- Listen to your employees. Be sensitive to employee anxiety about remote work and COVID-19. Reassure them as best you can and recognize that this is not just “business as usual.” A good rule of thumb is to assume that all your employees are experiencing remote work inconveniences and remain sympathetic. Reassure your staff that some expectations will shift accordingly, check in with employees on an individual basis to see if there is any way you can make their work situation more efficient.
- Use video as much as possible. More than half of human communication is non-verbal, making video a much more effective medium.
- Reinvent whiteboard brainstorms. Try Miro or Google Docs for a collaborative brainstorm session, or internal communication apps like Slack that offer audio, video, or screen sharing calls.
- Encourage online learning. When a worker doesn’t have access to specialized software or other industry-specific items, it can become impossible for them to complete some tasks. Motivate them to embrace free online learning opportunities in lieu of this.
- Keep your company data safe. If possible, provide employees with work computers and have them audit their home network for potential vulnerabilities. If employees will be using personal devices, set strict guidelines that limit their ability to store or copy data and be weary of providing access to your company’s internal network.
- Be prepared for the future. Working from home isn’t for everyone, and many of your stir-crazy employees will be glad to return to the office when the time comes. Keep in mind though that some employees might find that remote work is highly feasible for them and didn’t hinder their performance at all. Be prepared to have conversations with employees about continuing their work from home after this pandemic comes to an end.
The time has come to swiftly and creatively adapt to our changing workplace conditions. With these tips, we hope you are able to embark on a successful journey as a manager of remote employees. If nothing else, remember to stay patient. It is important to understand that adjustment takes time and that everyone learns at their own pace.
For further information and advice on working from home, check out our other blogs:
- Tips for working from home during COVID-19
- How to maintain communication and productivity when working from home
- How to stay mentally and physically well during COVID-19
- 12 tips for parents who work from home