Time to do a self-evaluation. How effective have you been in managing a remote workforce?
Let’s be honest, when the nation transitioned to telecommuting at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was initially viewed as a job perk to improve work flexibility and reduce daily commutes. However, as the months drew on managers realized the downside of remote work. When managed poorly remote working is a burden to managers and employees and not a benefit. Here are proven practical steps you can implement to maximize employees’ productivity and engagement in a remote environment. When done successfully, research shows that teleworking can improve employee productivity, creativity, and morale.
1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
"In teamwork, silence isn't golden, it's deadly." — Mark Sanborn, Author
There is no such thing as over-communicating in a teleworking environment. You must ensure your employees are abreast of organizational announcements and team updates and you must also check on his or her well-being. That may seem overwhelming. To help alleviate losing track of multiple meetings, schedule reoccurring 1:1 meetings with your employees, and regular team meetings. Use this time to discuss work projects, company updates, and even personal check-ins. Be open to a two-way dialogue and allow employees to consult with you on their concerns and questions.
2. Create opportunities for social interaction
Loneliness is one of the most common complaints employees have when working remotely. The informal water cooler talk is gone. Informally stopping by a co-worker's desk is gone. And even the informal conversations before and after a team meeting are gone. Employees are feeling disconnected from their colleagues and feeling less connected to the organization, which can result in employee turnover. As a leader, this is your opportunity to think creatively in maintaining a cohesive team remotely. Schedule virtual happy hours, virtual lunches, or even start your team meeting with non-work discussions. While these items seem trivial, they can have a lasting impact in decreasing feelings of isolation and increasing a sense of belonging.
3. Increase employee recognition
According to Brian Kropp, Vice President, Research, Gartner, “employees' desire for being recognized for their contributions increases by 30% during periods of disruption.” Recognition goes beyond a monetary award. Recognition includes public acknowledgment, a token of appreciation, an email note thanking the employee for his or her contribution, etc. The acknowledgment will motivate the employee and provide a symbol for other employees to follow.
4. Trust your employees
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Ernest Hemingway
Before COVID-19, many managers hesitated in allowing employees to work from home because it meant losing consistent visibility to their employees and the concern that employees would not work as efficiently. However, research shows that employees work more efficiently and longer hours when working remotely. So, as a manager, you need to trust your employees. Create work-from-home guidelines with feedback from your employees to ensure everyone is aligned on expectations for working remotely.
5. Focus on the results, not the task
Before COVID-19, employees had established childcare and mostly likely a designated workspace when working remotely.Now, in the remote landscape employees are juggling work and family at the same time.Be sensitive to the personal demands of your employees while still managing their performance outputs.Focus on the results and not the tasks or processes.
6. Be Flexible
We are in unprecedented times and employees are under stress of the abrupt shift to remote work- which can also include partners and children at home. It is important to acknowledge employee’s concerns, be empathetic to the employee's struggles, and also encourage the path forward. Similar to stress being contagious likewise is a positive outlook. Employees tend to look to their managers for how to react in crises. If you are stressed and provide a negative outlook on the current situation it will have a trickle-down effect on your employees. You must remain positive and hopeful about the situation and outcomes to build confidence and positive energy in your team.
The reality is that teleworking is here to stay. Twitter and other companies are allowing employees to work from home indefinitely, even after COVID-19 shutdowns end. Now, the question becomes how will you manage the new norm?
"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
Do I have regular check-ins with my employees?
Do I create an environment of open dialogue for concerns or questions?
What social activities can I incorporate throughout the week to increase team camaraderie?
What non-work-related topics/questions can I use to start/end my team meeting for employees to connect?
What recognition practices can I implement immediately to reward my employees for going above and beyond?
How can I mentally let go of control of a task and trust my employees for results?
Do have I established performance deliverables for my employees?
How can I create a more results-focused environment for my employees?
Do I encourage employees to remain positive?
How would I rate my attitude with the recent environment?
About the Author: Michelle Glover, CEO of Journey Unlimited, is a talented human resource professional with over 18 years of experience in leadership, coaching, change management, and HR strategy. Known for her creativity and strategic thinking, Michelle knows how to create innovative strategies to help individuals and companies achieve their goals. She has devised her own coaching model dubbed “Purpose to Results” coaching. This strategy views the client holistically. She doesn't focus exclusively on goals and creating career plans. Instead, she pays attention to a client’s spiritual, physical, and general mental health to create a solution for the client's overall well-being.