As we round out 2020, I can’t help but hope that when we awake on (US) New Year’s Day, we will realize that this was an unpleasant dream. Unfortunately, the probabilities of this happening are slim to none. In reality, we continue to persevere through a pandemic, while grappling with some of the same professional topics. Managing remote workers is a prime example. A year ago, remote work was presented as a recruitment and retention tool on the menu of workplace flexibility options. However, today, it has become a necessary work function.
Having a workforce involuntarily transition to remote work can present different sets of challenges. They include onboarding new employees, leaders who find it difficult to make the shift and reduced engagement. However, working remotely also provides employees opportunities for increased creativity and autonomy. Both of which are great leadership skills. Leaders who are supportive and provide regular feedback set the stage for professional growth. This can eventually encourage employees to seek stretch assignments and eventually become the obvious choice for promotions. Leaders play a major role in employees’ success and the same is true for remote workers.
Employees desire to feel part of an organization that treats their employees in an inclusive and equitable manner.
Here are a few suggestions on managing remote teams:
Increase communication- Take time to connect with remote employees whether it’s through email, IM or face time to keep the lines of communication open. This also reiterates their importance to the team. Increasing communication with remote workers also increases engagement and ensure that everyone on the team stays informed.
Avoid the urge to micromanage- Studies indicate remote workers work on average 4 more hours a week than their in-office counterparts. This is attributed to flexible schedules and reduced commute times. Managers cannot monitor what employees are working on 100% of the time, whether they’re working in or out of the office. The goal is to focus on results. Productivity is evident based on results.
Set clear expectations- communicate individual and team goals up front and often. Having regular debrief sessions to review tasks and projects, are a way of ensuring clarity of expected outcomes. It also continues to demonstrate how their work aligns with reaching team and organizational goals.
Be flexible- Recognizing the diversity of your employee base and managing them as such, ensures their individual professional needs are met. Understanding differences in scheduling is important, especially when remote workers are juggling so many things during the day. Agreeing on definite times for availability is important. It demonstrates empathy and trust for both parties and will be remembered once we emerge from the current crisis.
Don’t take advantage- Working remote sometimes means going above and beyond for some. Remote workers want to prove they can be trusted when not in the office. Encourage employees to take breaks and take advantage of vacation time. When employees fail to draw the line between work and personal time, this can present professional and personal issues.
Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD