The COVID-19 pandemic that announced itself to the world just over a year ago is, unfortunately, still very much rampant. This means that the teleworking guidelines established by many organizations are staying in place for the foreseeable future.
This extended period without regular, in-person interactions has presented tremendous challenges for managers, especially those who have never managed remote employees before. It is scary territory to navigate, as it can be tough to make sure that employees are productive and thriving.
Through this article, we will attempt to make this phase a little easier by listing down some important tips for managing a remote workforce.
- Set early and frequent expectations
Before beginning a new project, it is crucial that you provide comprehensive guidelines and set clear boundaries. Make sure that the team understands priorities, goals, and milestones, and be accessible in case the employees have any questions. Also, ensure that you will be able to reach your employees as and when needed.
Managers should also focus on keeping the workforce updated about any personnel or policy changes – just like they would in the workplace. They should also model behaviour around working hours and establish guidelines about the after-hours response to work-related texts or emails.
- Watch out for indications of distress
Use a combination of conversation and observation to identify your employees’ concerns and challenges. Your employees need to know that their managers are looking out for and caring for them.
Managers should be guided on how to broach sensitive topics – especially those emerging from the ongoing pandemic. These topics could include job security, alternate work models, and workplace tensions.
- Be flexible and organized
In order to ensure quality and consistency, it is essential to be flexible with your remote teams. This does not mean that you should work without a concrete plan, but instead that you should improvise strategies according to the situation.
For instance, as long as the work is being done without a compromise on quality, it should not matter whether your employees are putting in more morning or evening hours.
- Encourage dialogue
Communication efforts should help – and not hurt – engagement. This can only be achieved by promoting and ensuring a two-way communication process. It is far more critical that employees understand a change initiative rather than like it.
With two-way communication, employees are able to receive the requisite perspectives and information while simultaneously getting the opportunity to express any concerns or grievances.
- Increase recognition
Research shows that the employees’ desire for recognition increases by as much as 30% during periods of disruption.
Effectively recognizing your employees not only motivates them to do better but also acts as a signal to other workers, encouraging them to emulate certain behaviours and attitudes. Recognition need not always involve money; training and development opportunities, appreciation tokens, and public acknowledgment are all incredibly impactful.
- Avoid micromanagement
You would not look over your employee’s shoulders every five minutes in the workplace, so you should resist this urge during remote working as well. The best way to avoid micromanagement is to have consistent one-to-one check-ins with your employees. This way, you will be able to track your workers’ progress while also providing them with the opportunity to contribute with their feedback.
If your employees are meeting their deadlines, achieving their goals, and communicating clearly, you can rest assured that they are being productive and efficient.
- Encourage innovation:
Watching businesses being sheltered and employees being let go, it is normal for workers to become risk-averse and hesitant to try out new things.
However, these are the kinds of times that increase the importance of risk-taking and innovation and make them more crucial to worker engagement and organizational progress. High-potential employees are more likely to suffer from these constraints on innovation and initiative.
For this reason, despite the restrictions on investments, managers should continue to stress the need for process improvements and provide opportunities for incremental innovation.
The novelty and uncertainty surrounding the current situation can be disconcerting and worrying for managers and employees alike. We hope that the tips discussed in this article will help you ease the stress associated with remote management and, in the process, assist your employees in maximizing their potential despite the confusing and scary times we are all witnessing.
Written by David Ford & Albert Gidge