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The number of employees working from home has increased over the past few years but, as we live through the coronavirus pandemic, numbers have risen sharply and abruptly. It could be that this way of working becomes a permanent part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
Even for organisations that are used to managing staff who regularly work from home, it is unlikely that they will have experienced this on such a large scale and for a considerable length of time.
Businesses must manage and communicate effectively to their remote workforce to create connections, keep motivation high and to supress any feelings of disconnect and isolation.
In this blog we will remind you of the best practices for managing remote workers (useful for even the most seasoned managers), provide advice for organisations who are managing remote workers for the very first time and tell you how to manage new starters. As always, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to managing individuals and it pays to get to know your employees well and understand what makes them tick.
Back to Basics
Before we talk about the best practices, it’s always good to reflect on why effective management is crucial. These are the 7 main needs of every employee:
We recommend you consider these points to help your employees achieve these needs and do their best work.
How to effectively support your remote workers
It’s clear that employees need certain pieces of equipment and technology installed to enable them to carry out their roles from home. But without effective management, productivity can dwindle and poor behaviour can set in.
Establish regular 1-2-1 check-ins. Successful managers take time to get to know their teams and can identify individuals who would appreciate a daily check-in and those who may prefer it every other day. Check with every individual that they are happy with the frequency of your check-ins and confirm the structure. Ensure that every team member knows that these check-ins are an opportunity for them to raise any concerns.
Establish group check-ins. Where employees will benefit from a collaborative approach you can arrange a group video conference to share ideas, boost creativity and problem solve.
Provide options for communication. Be mindful that not every employee will enjoy all forms of communication; recent research suggests that many employees find continual video conferencing exhausting. Ask your workforce for their preferred communication methods which can include: email, mobile phone messaging apps, social network tools, video conferencing and phone calls.
Communicate the rules of engagement. Establish rules early on to allow your remote workers to schedule their workload around communications. For example, your rules of engagement can include things like: Instant Messaging will be used when there is an urgent message, the times when managers will be available to receive calls and the day the weekly newsletter will appear in inboxes.
Social interaction. Make time at the start of every call with your team member to catch up on non work-related things. Be authentic and ask how they are, how their weekend was and be sure to practice effective listening. In an ideal world all remote workers would be coping well but in reality there may be a need for extra support – before you start your check-ins make sure you know the resources available such as Mental Health First Aiders, employee assistance programmes and external providers such as Able Futures.
Introduce fun. Video conferencing opens up the possibilities to replicate some of the fun experienced in the workplace. For example, you can arrange group virtual coffee breaks, quizzes and pizza lunches to reduce feelings of isolation and to promote that much-needed sense of belonging. Be creative in your teams and remember to celebrate successes too.
Consider your tone and language. In times of crisis and change, employees will look to their managers for cues. Be mindful to use a neutral tone when delivering messages as your employees will pick up if they hear panic in your voice. Use phrases such as “we can …”, “we’ve got this” and “when we work together, we can …” to create a sense of purpose and belonging.
Supporting employees new to remote working
Employees who are new to working from home may need extra help in the transition from working in an office environment. Anticipate that they’ll need support to effectively manage their time, get organised, become disciplined and manage their stress levels.
It’s important to offer emotional support to help them confidently navigate their way and listen to their concerns. Try not to ask generic questions about how they are, instead be more direct and ask how they are coping with remote working. Let their answer be the focus of the conversation and agree ways you can help.
Those new to remote working may feel the need to always be on call, with a feeling that if they don’t answer their phone or respond to an email immediately it may appear that they are ‘doing something else’ – they need to know that they are trusted. It’s important that remote workers shake off any feelings of guilt for taking a break or to sort out issues with other family members who may also find themselves at home instead of work or school.
What to advise employees new to this way of working:
Onboarding and welcoming your new employees
A huge challenge for organisations is how to make new starters feel like they’re part of a wider team and help them become productive quickly.
Here are some tips which will help your new employees feel engaged and motivated:
We’re Here To Help
If your organisation would like to talk to a HR professional about any of the issues raised in this blog, please get in touch on 0161 941 2426.
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