Management

6 Tips for Managing Remote Workers

Remote working has a few challenges. However, they are not challenges that cannot be addressed or without solutions.

Three years before the coronavirus pandemic could strike, in March 2017, IBM, the pioneer in the work-from-home revolution, withdrew its work-from-home policy and called its remote workers back to the office. IBM made this decision, despite saving more than US$ 100M between 1995 and 2009 when 40% of its 386,000 employees in 173 countries were working remotely.

But that was before the pandemic. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote working.

Remote working has a few challenges. However, they are not challenges that cannot be addressed or without solutions. 

Develop a robust remote work policy

Some employees, because of their nature of work, are required to come to the office.

Address clearly who can work remotely and how. Set working hours. Remote working has increased global collaboration opportunities. Employees need to understand their slots and the time zones they are required to be available.

Set clear job profile expectations. Align KPIs that fit the remote working integrations and protocols.

Since employees will access sensitive company information and exchange it with other contractors/vendors, create and implement information security guidelines and policies that will keep company information from falling into the wrong hands.

Employees will be interacting with people from different geographies and cultures. Establish a code of conduct on what is acceptable and not acceptable in remote working to avoid confrontations and legal troubles.

Set up digital and online check-ins

When there is no face-to-face time, managers must set and manage expectations. As companies involve large chains of hierarchy and processes, an absent/unavailable employee who was not supposed to be absent can throw off balance for companies.

Managers must use online attendance-based applications or use applications to do a team huddle every morning.

Companies managing remote workers in different countries can allot tasks and keep track of tasks and task statuses via video conferences and task management applications such as Asana, Trello, and Jira.

Establish modes of communication

Clear communication is essential.

Since employees and managers do not get face time with each other, effective communication is vital.

Sending an email and forgetting about it will not do. Constant follow-ups on team chat applications such as Slack, Teams, and Zoom is necessary. Whenever a complex subject must be explained, and multiple stakeholders are involved, while task management applications aid the process, video conferences have proven beneficial to eliminate ambiguities.

Let your employees know which communication tool to use for what purpose. For example, it is okay to share the brief by email, but for any updates and further explanations, use Slack for extended product demonstrations and use Zoom.

Not just career stability, give them emotional stability

A recent Google study revealed that managers play a crucial role in the member’s state of mind and team productivity.

Employers have a responsibility to take care of their employees.

19% of remote workers, according to a Buffer survey, have disclosed that their challenge in working remotely is loneliness and isolation.

Organize team gatherings and fun virtual activities. If new employees are joining, break the ice virtually using virtual video conference software. Host a #AskUsAnything session on the company’s internal chat group.

This will be a good place for the employees to ask you questions affiliated with their job and the company.

Do not get them to do something merely because you can

Many companies (especially the larger ones) are under the misconception that long hours spent at the desk translate to more productivity.

Expecting employees to be ‘always on’ will stress them and decrease their productivity. This is how depression, frustration, restlessness, and sleep disturbance set in.

Instead of a ‘spend-so-many-hours-at-the-desk’, a delivery-based model will give the employees the time to do their household chores and ease their mind from the stress of constantly staying online, and prove a point that they are indeed working.

Remote working has another adverse symptom – cybersecurity errors. Forcepoint, a cybersecurity firm, compiled a report that revealed that excessive burnout in remote workers caused them to make basic cybersecurity errors.

Care about the employees’ well-being

With remote meetings, every meeting must be had with a different setup.

Unlike in-person meetings, virtual meetings must have an outline because many pieces must be arranged or put together to have a meeting.

In-office meetings were taken for granted. Many meetings in the in-office setup were avoidable. Unwanted meetings can put unwanted stress on employees.

Looking at so many faces on a computer screen can be stressful. Use meetings to bridge gaps, not to widen them. Do not organize a meeting, merely because the hours must fill up.

Giving remote working stipends allows employees to upgrade their home workstations. Better desks, better chairs lead to better working conditions.

Today, after a year of experiencing remote working, companies are vouching for the positives that remote working brings. This does not mean all companies that were forced to go to remote will want to continue to work remotely. While on the one hand we have innovative organizations like Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Reddit adopting hybrid models, while on the other side, we have companies like Amazon and Spotify casting their votes for long-term work-from-anywhere models.

Companies understand that work-from-home is here to stay. The shift has been abrupt but adapting to the new dynamic need not be. With proper planning, implementations, and remote working protocols, companies achieve higher efficiency levels, cut costs, and increase profit margins.

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