To help in the management of the spread of COVID-19, most companies and learning institutions have asked employees to work from home. Research studies show that a quarter of the US workforce is already working remotely at least part-time. These new policies have left the majority of managers and employers working out of the office.
It’s always important to establish policies regarding remote work and training. Fortunately, there are simple specific steps that managers can take to improve the engagement and productivity levels of remote employees. First, let’s look at the common challenges linked to remote work.
Challenges of remote work
Managers need to understand the factors that make remote work demanding. Productive employees may experience a decline in engagement and performance when they work at home in the absence of training and preparation. Some of the common challenges of remote work include:
1. Lack of supervision
Managers and employees usually express concerns about the lack of interaction and supervision. Supervisors usually worry that employees won’t work as hard or effectively. On the other hand, most remote workers have no easy access to communication and managerial support. In some instances, employees feel that managers do not understand their needs. And this makes them neither helpful nor supportive in getting work done.
2. Lack of access to information
Most remote workers are usually surprised by the extra time and effort needed to get information from coworkers. For example, getting answers to questions that seem simple can be an obstacle to remote workers. This phenomenon extends to interpersonal challenges among co-workers. It’s quite difficult for co-workers to give each other the benefit of doubt in such situations. Receiving an email or text message from a co-worker without understanding their circumstances will increase the chances that they take offense.
3. Isolation and loneliness
Loneliness is a common challenge facing remote workers. Most employees miss the informal social interactions in the office. Studies show that extroverts may suffer working remotely especially if they don’t have opportunities to connect with their co-workers in their work environment. As a result, isolation and loneliness can result in an increased intention for employees to leave the organization.
In most cases, remote work is represented by photos of a parent holding a child while working on a sofa. This is not a good representation of virtual work. Managers need to ensure that their remote workers have a dedicated workspace before allowing them to work remotely. Managers should also expect home demands and family to affect the productivity and performance of their employees.
Supporting remote employees with remote work guidelines
While remote work is full of challenges, there are quick and inexpensive things that managers should do to make the transition smooth. Some of the actions that they should take and include in remote work guidelines include:
1. Establishing daily check-ins
The majority of successful remote managers have established daily check-ins with their remote employees. This can take the form of one on one calls if employees work independently from each other or a team call if their work is collaborative. Above all, the most important thing is that calls should be regular and predictable and their questions and concerns be heard. As a result, remote work guidelines should include daily check ins.
2. Provide different communication channels
Email is not sufficient alone. Remote workers will benefit from having several rich communication channels such as video conferencing. Video conferencing has several advantages, especially in small group settings. Visual cues increase mutual knowledge among coworkers and help in reducing isolation in teams. Video is also useful for holding sensitive or complex conversations since it feels more personal than audio-only or written channels.
For example, if your organization doesn’t have communication tools in place, there are several ways to obtain simple versions of tools such as Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams to name a few. These work with smaller groups. If you’d like to connect a larger group for true knowledge collaboration, Givitas is a good option. Consider outlining clear usage of these tools in your remote work guidelines.
3. Establish engagement rules
Working remotely can be satisfying and efficient when clear expectations on means and frequency of communication are set. It’s also important to let employees know the best way and time to reach you during the day. Most importantly, keep an eye on how team members are communicating with each other to ensure that information is being shared as required.
Managers should establish rules of engagement with employees as early as possible to avoid problems in the future. For example, these rules can easily be laid out in remote work guidelines.
4. Provide opportunities for social interactions
One of the most important steps that managers should take is structuring ways for employees to interact socially as they work. This is especially important for workers who have transitioned to remote work abruptly.
The best way to establish social interactions is to leave a few minutes for non-work topics at the beginning of team calls. Other great options include virtual office parties and virtual pizza parties. While these events might sound forced or artificial, they can help in reducing feelings of loneliness and promoting oneness.
Suggest your employees join a free Givitas group for advice, ideas, support, and more. Or create a company-specific group for them.
5. Offer emotional support
When shifting to remote work abruptly, managers need to listen to their employees’ concerns and empathize with them. If a remote employee is struggling but not talking about his or her stress and anxiety, you should consider having a chat with them.
Give your employees time to express their concerns. Research studies on emotional intelligence show that employees look up to their managers to figure out how they’ll react to the crisis. If managers communicate stress, this will hurt their employees. Great leaders acknowledge the stress and anxiety that employees feel in challenging circumstances. And use phrases such as “we can handle this” or “you got this”. When managers support their employees, they’ll easily tackle challenges with focus and a sense of purpose.
The world has been hit by a dangerous virus that has no cure yet. At the moment, the only known prevention is maintaining social distance. Most organizations are encouraging their employees to maintain social distance by adopting remote work practices.
Thanks to rapid technological advancement, working from home has become easy and productive. When managers tackle all the problems linked to remote work, employees will be engaged and productive in the long run.
About the Author
Arthur Evans is a freelance writer and proofreader at from the UK who currently works at assignment help and essay writing service uk. Being interested in everyday development, he writes various blog posts and discovers new aspects of human existence every day. Feel free to contact him via Twitter.