(This is a contributed post)
Isolation and public distancing measures that have been put in place to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 have forced many businesses to close down their offices and to allow their employees to work remotely. For some businesses, this may be the first time that they have ever had to manage an entirely remote workforce at the same time and the prospect may be daunting at best. The good news is, that many businesses flourish with remote workforces and when approached correctly, their productivity and employee satisfaction ratings can actually be seen to rise. So if you’re new to remote workforce management or are just looking for ways to better manage your team remotely, then here are few things to consider.
It’s all well and good instructing employees to work from home, but many may not actually have the means to do so. Are your employees taking their office equipment home with them or are you asking them to use their own hardware? Have you checked to ensure that your employees have a safe and comfortable place to work from? Do they have access to basic office supplies such as a desk or a chair? Would you consider a kitchen table a suitable workspace? It’s unfair to assume that an employee can work comfortably from home straight off the bat, and if you truly value their productivity then you need to ensure that they are set up for success by helping them to finance at least some basic home working equipment. For very paper-based businesses it may also be time to consider a digital transformation to help teams work from distant locations – you can read more about digital transformation here – https://www.intellectsoft.net/blog/what-is-digital-transformation/. By digitising paper-based processes you can facilitate the easy sharing of documents and paperwork and will reduce the chance of things becoming lost.
Your workforce is likely to be just as anxious as you about working remotely, especially if they think that their performance will be more highly scrutinized, and so it’s best for everyone if you set some expectations from the beginning. Rather than focusing on activity, try to focus on goals, this allows employees some degree of flexibility that they will likely need now that they are working around their home lives. Make it clear which hours you expect your employees to work, and how you expect to be able to contact them and if possible consider introducing a more flexible working schedule which will aid employees with children to fit around their family schedules.
Communication is the key to ensuring that everyone on your team remains up-to-date and in the loop and will also help your employees to feel less isolated. Whereas you may have relied heavily upon email in the office, now you may want to consider using an instant messaging platform such as Skype or Slack so that you can stay in constant contact with your team. For meetings, use video conference calls but be accepting if employees do not wish to be on their video camera especially if needing to work around their families. Another way to ensure that your team stays connected is by performing a daily or weekly Scrum or stand-up in which the team can be updated on project status and everyone can be made clear on what has and needs to be done.
One of the most difficult parts of remote working is building trust. In many remote working scenarios, trust is earnt and not given, but with little choice in this instance, business owners need to develop trust in their employees quickly. If you have set out clear working hours and are operating based on progress towards goals and not just daily actions, then you have set your staff up with the information they need to get the job done, and at the end of the day, until they start missing deadlines you need to assume that they are working as expected. Monitoring your staff too closely can actually reduce their productivity levels as well as being intrusive on their privacy.
By considering these four things alone you are more prepared than many business leaders for the task of leading your team remotely. Remote working has many benefits for business and their employees, and who knows, once the Covid-19 outbreak is contained and businesses return to usual, maybe you’ll even have been convinced to allow your employees to keep some of their remote working privileges.