The remote work trend has increased over the years, and the recent pandemic gave it a real push. Policies, preferences, and even realizations have all played a role in the increase. Yet even after more than a year of intermittent global lockdowns, many have struggled to manage remote employees effectively.
As a company with a geographically distributed team, we have mastered the art and science of managing remote workers. Here are some of the methods we’ve used over the years to ensure that our WFH employees are productive, efficient, and engaged.
1. Realize that Remote Work Yields Varying Success
Caption: Productivity yields are affected by sector and role (Source: McKinsey)
This tip comes right at the top since many articles seem to neglect the aspect of productivity. Studies have shown that different occupations will be subject to various productivity losses depending on industry or role.
Understanding that the potential exists for at least some productivity loss is key to building and accepting a reasonable remote work policy for your business. Failing to understand this can lead to attempts at meeting unrealistic – or impossible – targets.
2. Use The Right Tools
Having employees work out of the office requires the right work-from-home tools. While the things needed may change depending on the industry, some elements remain universal. For example, data security, collaboration, and different equipment take on a vital role in remote work.
Here are some core areas you may need to increase focus on when managing your team of remote workers;
Hardware – Traditional offices often assign light workstations for most employees. It’s cost-effective and gets the job done. Remote employees will need access to hardware out of the office, and the best way of achieving that is by assigning them with laptops.
Having remote workers use their home computers for work is not desirable. It introduces an unnecessary element of risk to your business. For instance, you will find it challenging to secure the data on personal equipment adequately.
Remote workers may also need headsets, webcams, or mobile phones, depending on their role within your organization.
Software – Remote workers have a heightened need for communication, collaboration, and security. The software solutions for much of this exist and are quite mature. Meetings can be held via Zoom or Google Meet, while collaborative tools such as Slack and Asana can fill in the rest of the productivity space.
You’ll also want to consider easily accessible common storage spaces that all remote workers can access, regardless of location. The best way of doing this is by getting hold of secure Cloud storage.
Security – Although security includes both hardware and software, it requires special attention for remote work. Don’t simply consider antivirus solutions, but look towards more inclusive options. You need to be able to secure everything, not just a single area.
Some security tools you can consider;
- Virtual Private Network (VPN) services to encrypt transferred data
- Internet security solutions to protect against all web threats
- Two-Factor Authentication for essential services
3. Understand Remote Work Challenges for Employees
Having an employee work from home means that you’re moving from an isolated office environment and merging into a hybrid with personal life. No matter how you look at it, there is no way some intermix won’t occur.
We all lead very diverse personal lives and your working discipline may not be the same for others. Your environment can be vastly different from Employee A and even more different than Employee B. Accepting that your remote work plan will never be perfect is another step towards building the right management strategy.
Work towards helping remote employees resolve some personal challenges. Here are some ways you can make the transition easier:
- Identify clear standards that remote workers should attempt to adhere with
- Introduce timeboxing to help workers avoid procrastination
- Ensure help is available for those facing technical challenges
Pro Tip: Automate Time Tracking
Monitoring work hours and creating timesheets manually are added tasks for your employees. Instead of giving them an additional headache, you should automate time tracking by using Traqq. This lightweight app is easy to install and use. Once your employees have downloaded it, all they need to do is click Start on the desktop widget. The tool will automatically log their work hours. By the end of the week or month, they can go to the dashboard to generate their accurate timesheets within a few clicks.
As of this writing, Traqq is free for download with no feature limitations.
4. Trust Your Employees
Teddy Rosevelt once said the best executives choose the right people to get the job done and have the restraint not to meddle while they do it. Aside from allowing the job to get done more smoothly, letting your employees run with affairs is a good way of instilling confidence.
Founder’s syndrome emerges mainly in younger businesses where employers don’t yet have the necessary management experience. However, it isn’t unique to them, and some managers in larger organizations similarly have difficulty letting things go.
“Letting go” doesn’t mean you sit back and watch things burn. It simply refers to trusting that your employees are meeting their goals, communicating clearly, and being overall productive.
5. Foster Good Communications
Caption: The Met has virtual group tours you can use as part of team-building exercises
Working alone can quickly lead many employees towards feelings of isolation. Just as you can’t see them frequently, remote workers can quickly lose touch with supervisors and colleagues. This situation can quickly lead to a breakdown in trust and cohesion within organizations.
Always remember to set aside fixed periods for team communications. Don’t treat these sessions as formal meetings, but rather facetime between employees where they are free to voice concerns or simply share what’s been happening in their case.
While you shouldn’t treat these sessions too formally, never forget that failing to have a clear outline, plan, or format can quickly lead to a breakdown into chaos. One good way of handling this is by holding a virtual team-building exercise.
Some things you can do;
- Hold icebreaker sessions
- Run competitive virtual games
- Join virtual tours together
- Set weekly trivia contests
If you’ve wracked your brain and haven’t come up with something that works for your company, consider signing up with a service that holds remote team-building activities – yes, they exist!
Listen and Be Available
Even as you build intra-company communications, don’t forget to include yourself as well. Employees need to know that you’re there for them. By making yourself available and ready to listen, you can frequently nip potential problems in the bud.
Don’t assume that your employees will approach you and tell you things. It can be hard to discuss issues with a supervisor or boss. Make use of tools like surveys, build encouraging videos, or even approach workers individually for chat sessions sometimes.
6. Let Employees Know Things Are Working
At the best of times, office workers can be a little isolated from the success of an organization. This situation is somewhat mitigated in office environments where team members frequently interact and can see how the company is doing.
Remote workers can be blind to this at times – so make sure to celebrate success with them. Let them know when they’ve met milestones bringing things closer to an objective. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, remote workers are less motivated than their office-based counterparts. Indeed, even a little encouragement can boost morale and catalyze future endeavors.
7. Avoid the Temptation to Overload
Just because your employees save time on a commute isn’t an excuse to translate that into working hours. Be extra cautious about employee workload as their “busy” hours will be in full view of their family – including children.
Special cautions need to be met with “Urgent” tasks as employees can easily find that this infringes on personal time. Remote work isn’t an excuse to have them responding to communications in the wee hours of the morning – no matter the reason.
Remote Work Can be Good for Business
Not having your staff huddled in an office can be a good thing if done correctly. There are many advantages employers can look forward to that will change how the business works in a good way. These include:
Potentially Lower Expenses – Although some equipment and service costs may rise, these are typically far less than what office spaces cost to run. Imagine not having to pay for electricity, transportation-associated expenses, and other operational costs.
Lower Turnover – Although studies indicate that productivity suffers slightly, many staff are happier not having to commute long hours. The result can still bring you out ahead with lower turnover and the needed HR fees.
Larger Hiring Pools – Remote work opens the possibility of employment to many who may not be able to be in the office full time. That means you get to choose from a broader range of candidates, some of whom might not otherwise be open for consideration.
Before working on improving remote work efficiency, make sure you’ve accepted it as a reality. Failing to do so can result in producing skewed strategies that may negatively impact your business. Look on the positive side and make the best of things for the company, yourself, and your employees.