In times of Covid-19 global pandemic, governments all over the world are trying to control the spread by urging businesses to limit in-person interactions. In order to protect their workers, companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and many others have rolled out policies to mandate all employees to work from home. However strange, this will be the new norm for many of us for the next few weeks or so.
Working from home presents several challenges for both managers and employees as people try to adjust to the new home office routine. However, overwhelming the change may be, it presents a great opportunity for managers to rise to the challenge and take leadership. Based on advice of experts, here are some of the best ways to effectively manage your remote workforce.
Phase in the Change
For a lot of employees who are used to the on location office work model, this will be a huge cultural shift. Find champions of remote workmanship from your organization. Establish a core team that understands or has experience of working in such an environment. Use this core team to bring other employees onboard by listening to their concerns, suggesting solutions and building trust in the new system slowly and gradually.
Have a Clear Set of Guidelines
Distributed workforce means that it's a challenge to make sure everyone is on the same wavelength. For this, as a starting point all work processes, roles definitions, team objectives and communication methods should be put in writing. This documentation should be easily accessible to all employees. Additionally, as people try to find work life balance, it's important for managers and coworkers to be well aware of the individual working hours of each team member and to be respectful of those. Because of no clear office and home boundaries, many employees may fall in the loop of working overtime and exhausting themselves in the long run. Raise red flags here. Also, since direct supervision is minimized in a remote setting, focus on transparent measurable metrics of success to determine employee performance.
Set up Communication Channels
Working from home can make many employees feel isolated and lonely. Strong and reliable communication is key when operating under a remote model. Managers need to establish channels by checking in with employees frequently. A great way to re-establish face to face connectivity is to use video conferencing instead of plain old phone calls. Many tech tools such as Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts can help. Make sure the video calls are super natural. Start with open ended questions asking employees what they’re working on, what has been accomplished and where they need help. Be responsive and available when needed. This will keep employees motivated and help them to be more productive.
When transitioning from the office to home model, many employees would lose the opportunity to have natural and informal office interactions that they used to enjoy everyday. Managers need to make sure that virtual meetings have a time allotted for casual discussions. Another way to address this problem is to have chat rooms active on Slack or Skype where employees can engage in informal chatter openly. Many times the manager will need to take a lead here. This will help keep the sense of camaraderie intact and morals high.
Tools for Remote Teams
While tech tools will be extremely useful in setting up a smooth functioning remote office, managers need to be smart and minimize the tool stack to bare essentials. At max, there should be one company wide tool for communication, project management and documentation each. This will reduce the hassle of managing multiple tools, keep communication and documentation organized in one place and minimize confusions, distractions and dysfunction. Managers need to ensure that everyone on the team is aware of the platforms being used, have access to them and an understanding on how to use them.
A great remote office keeps the health of the employees as one of their top priorities. While many of your workers are transitioning into this new model, be patient and let them find their routines. Encourage your employees to take breaks, exercise regularly, sleep well, stay active or even take time off if need be. The goal is to let them feel human and valued. Every once in a while managers can arrange virtual coffee or lunch meetups, where the employees can connect and enjoy casual conversations. This will help the employees realize that everyone is in this together and will keep them motivated and happy.
Managers and leaders need to put their trust in the work from home model and also in their employees. Take it one day at a time. Despite being a challenge and a difficult transition in the beginning, for many companies and leaders this is a rare opportunity to try and test the remote working model which has proven quite successful for many digital organizations and has opened the world to a lot of new possibilities.
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