With a global pandemic in full swing and no end in sight, many companies are looking to manage their operations remotely for the time being. In many countries and in some parts of the United States, non-essential personnel are required to stay home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
While 25% of the U.S. workforce already works from home, it can still be a huge hurdle for employees and managers who now have to work remotely and are separated for the first time.
The best way to handle these new changes is to have a clear set of guidelines and instructions that provide employees and managers direction. It’s also important to have the right expectations now that they’re in what may be a less than ideal situation for the foreseeable future.
Some well-known and common challenges of remote work are:
Lack of Physical Supervision: Many managers struggle with the lack of face-to-face interaction and can feel as though work isn’t getting done, while many employees can feel that their manager is not as accessible to meet their needs.
Lack of Information: Working remotely means workers now have to make more of an effort to find information they need to work effectively. This can slow down the pace at which work is completed.
Isolation: Remote work can be lonely and can cause employees to feel less belonging and camaraderie in their organization. It can take a great physical and emotional toll on employees.
Distractions at Home: While working at home, it can be very difficult to ignore the dishes in the sink, the children playing in the next room, or the cat that decides your computer makes a nice bed. Family demands can sometimes conflict with remote work; managers can expect these distractions.
While remote work for the unexperienced, and even the experienced remote employee, can be challenging, there are ways a manager can support their employees and make remote work manageable.
Have Regular Check-ins: Scheduling a daily call between managers and employees either individually or as a team can ensure employees know their manager is accessible and allow them to give updates and get answers for important questions and feel heard.
Use New Communication Technology: Email alone is not enough. Try using video conferencing software like Zoom, Skype or GoToMeeting. This allows participants to have conversations as if they were face-to-face and reduce that sense of isolation that they may be experiencing.
Establish Clear Communication Expectations: Make sure employees know what type of communication is appropriate for when. Video calls are used for larger or longer meetings and texting or calling is for something urgent. Finally, make sure everyone is communicating and sharing information as it’s needed.
Provide opportunities for informal communication: An essential piece of remote work is giving your employees an opportunity to make small talk and have more informal conversations about non-work topics. This is key in reducing feelings of loneliness and promoting a feeling of belonging. This can be as simple as just catching up before a meeting is scheduled to start or having a virtual lunch together.
Offer Emotional Support: This is most important for companies that have moved to remote work abruptly. Be sure to ask your employees or coworkers how they’re doing and acknowledge their stress. Employees take their cues from their managers, so it’s up to them to set the example for their employees and be open about their own challenges and what they’re doing to manage their work in the meantime.
Looking for more in-depth info on how to manage remote work? Check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.