Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workforce
At the start of 2020, 4.3 Million people or 3.2% of the entire workforce in the US worked remotely, and only 16% of US companies had a fully remote workforce.
Suddenly everything changed with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As companies struggled to move their operations entirely to the virtual realm as fast as possible, working from home became the new norm for most employees. There was no time to flesh out and implement well clear policies regarding this new reality, let alone train everybody, from managers to employees, on how this would work.
Improvisation was the name of the game.
Now that a few weeks have gone by and everybody is slowly settling into a new daily routine it’s time for you as a manager to change your “survival mode” mindset and start focusing on helping your workers improve their performance again.
Tips to help you manage your remote workforce:
- Communication is Key
First, you need to determine what the best way to communicate with your team is. Whether email, text messaging, phone calls, Skype, Zoom, Hangouts or getting a Discord server, the important thing is to make sure everyone knows how to use the channel you choose.
It is also very helpful to establish a regular schedule that makes sense for your team. You could have a full team meeting twice a week and a quick one-on-one call every morning, remember to remain flexible and to tweak your schedule and channels so that you are making the most out of these tools.
An obstacle that new remote workers face is the feeling that managers aren’t there to offer guidance. By providing them with open communication channels and guidelines on how to use them appropriately you will ensure that they feel supported and in sync with the rest of the team.
Once you have established your communication channels you now have to make sure that everybody has the right equipment to access these channels and do their work effectively. This means assessing if everybody on your team has a computer they can use to work from home and is capable of running the software they need, a strong and secure internet connection, proper access to shared files and folders, a proper physical space they can work out of, etc.
- Social Interaction
Remote workers can often feel isolated and in some cases, they start losing their sense of belonging. As a great remote manager, you should structure ways for employees to interact socially. So, take a few minutes at the beginning of your weekly team meeting to let everybody catch up. Another idea is to host a Friday afternoon virtual pizza party where your whole team gets pizzas delivered to their place at roughly the same time and have a video conference. It’s stuff like this that will help keep your team’s spirits high.
- Emotional support
Remember that these are very stressful times for many of your employees so make sure that you listen to their concerns, acknowledge their stress, and empathize with them as they struggle to cope with their new remote reality. At the same time remember that they will all be looking to you to guide them through this situation and so it is important that you remain assertive and positive in all your communications.