LEADING FROM AFAR: TIPS FOR MANAGING REMOTE EMPLOYEES
These days, an increasing number of companies are offering employees work-from-home options. Some businesses are even mandating it during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, making remote work one of this era’s biggest changes in the global workforce.
For managers, it can be a challenging time. Supervisors who had close-knit employee groups in an office may initially feel like all the pieces of their team have been set adrift during this COVID-19 era, and those personal connections are being lost. As employees learn to master work-life integration from home, their bosses may be struggling to keep them focused on work while acknowledging there is a new normal that needs an adjustment period. It’s a juggling act, but there are ways to make things smoother for your employees.
Here are some simple tips managers can use to make the most of their work-from-home situation, and manage a team successfully from afar.
Schedule Daily Check-Ins
You may not be able to drop by someone’s office or chat with them at the coffee machine, but personal interaction is still vital to keeping a strong connection with your employees. To make this work from afar, schedule daily check-in calls or video chats with your team. This can be one-on-one or a group call. Let your team know this is the time they can bring up any questions or concerns. Tell them not to be shy. If one person is struggling with an aspect of working remotely, another employee probably is, too. This is also a great time to provide feedback. So many times, people working remotely feel “out of the loop,” not able to get as much information about work items as others in an office setting. These check-ins are a great opportunity to keep everyone on the same page and make them all feel informed.
Offer Emotional Support & Words of Encouragement
Even if verbal support was only a small part of your job before, don’t underestimate its importance now. If employees’ careers have shifted abruptly to remote work, it is especially important for supportive managers to be there to listen to their team’s concerns. What are they worried about? What about this new work life is making them anxious? Good managers will look for ways to empathize with them about their struggles.
Some employees might need more frequent check-ins than others, or a personal call each day in addition to a group chat. The best way to be supportive is to really listen to what someone is saying, and let them know you understand what they are going through. Let them know you have confidence in them, that they are not alone in figuring out this new road map for remote work, and that you will continue to be there to support them.
Flexibility is key for managers trying to help employees navigate all the changes that remote work can bring. First, understand that team members might have a lot of new challenges cropping up right now, especially if they are trying to work from home with children or other family members there. Now is the time to reconsider what productivity means for each person.
To make things easier – and more productive – consider shifting regular work hours so employees can get things done in the window of time that works best for them. Some people with small children may prefer to work 4 hours early in the day, and another 4 at night, once the kids are in bed. Others may prefer to get all their tasks done in 4 days each week by working longer hours. Trust your team and give them the freedom and flexibility to get work done on their own schedule. They will appreciate your support, and the confidence you are placing in them.
Clearly State Expectations
Working remotely can sometimes mean that expectations start to feel a little fuzzy. Help your team figure out what they should be doing by creating realistic goals and expectations for their work. Make sure they have a clear list of the work they should be doing, and they understand the reason that work is needed. They also need to know how you are measuring their success as they work remotely.
By defining the scope, deadlines and deliverables for each task or project your team is working on, you are giving them clear directions to follow so they will know how to achieve success. This will make them feel more confident about doing their work.
Keep Your Team Feeling Connected
Team-building does not stop when you are working remotely. Now is the time you need cohesiveness. Make sure you are carving out time for virtual team-building. This can mean daily team chats built around upbeat messaging, as well as virtual lunches and happy hours to encourage socialization.
Celebrate Employee Milestones
Sometimes it’s easy to forget important milestones when you don’t see your team in person every day. But these days more than ever, milestones are a way to keep your employees connected. As a manager, you want to maintain an atmosphere of normalcy by continuing to celebrate important dates and your team’s successes. This means fostering team spirit by sending out group emails – or make it fun by sending e-cards – to recognize a birthday, work anniversary, or announce a promotion.
Even small work successes should be celebrated remotely, whether it’s making a big sale or meeting a project deadline with time to spare. Marking these accomplishments encourages a feeling of togetherness for the entire team.
While work-life integration can take a little getting used to when you are working remotely, supportive managers understand how to allow for changes while still rallying everyone together to work toward their shared goals.
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