If you want to manage your remote team successfully, you need to understand the remote work challenges and learn how to successfully tackle them. Discover 5 actionable tips and tricks for managing and supporting your remote employees!
Managing Remote Employees: 5 Actionable Tips
How to manage your (newly) remote employees?
As cases of Covid-19 multiply around the globe, both small companies and industry giants are rolling out mandatory work-from-home policies.
Due to the self-quarantining advice and other protective practices, many employees will be working remotely for the very first time, challenging HR's current approach to employee management.
In some companies, these circumstances may be new for everyone involved. The remote employees will need guidance from their HR and supervisors to meet the expectations, as well as the support to struggle with the change and achieve their workplace goals.
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Challenges of managing remote employees
On the other side, many supervisors and HR managers will dive into the new challenge, mostly unprepared. They will have to establish remote work policies on the go, and provide the support to their employees, making sure they are engaged with their work, and efficient.
The essential step for anyone working in HR and managing the remote workforce is trying to understand the challenges their remote employees face. Even your best-performing employees will need time to adapt to the new way of working. Don't be surprised if, during the transition, you notice a significant decline in their engagement and performance.
Top 5 remote work challenges
To be able to comprehend their position better, you need to be aware of some of the most common challenges remote employees face:
Challenge #1: Distractions at home
Not everyone's house is a suitable working environment. To be able to work efficiently, your employee needs to have a dedicated workspace, with little or no disturbances. However, with such an unplanned transition to remote work, some of your employees will probably be working from their sofas, in front of their TVs. Some of them will even need to handle their parental duties while working, which will add some extra pressure on them.
Challenge #2: Not enough face-to-face contact
Not enough face-to-face contact with their managers and supervisors. Due to the lack of personal communication, your employees may feel that they don't have enough support from their managers to get their work done.
Challenge #3: Lack of information
Your employees might be disturbed by the fact that they need to make an extra effort to locate the information they need.
Challenge #4: Social isolation
When employees transition to remote work all of a sudden, unprepared, some of them will find it hard to cope without informal social interaction. If the situation continues, and no efforts are made to reconnect your workforce, they may even lose the sense of belonging to the company.
Challenge #5: Maintaining engagement
As it is crucial for the success of the company, your HR team will have to develop the ways to build and maintain employee engagement remotely, as well as to establish the regular means of communication that will keep the workload running smoothly.
5 tips for managing remote employees
Here are a few useful ideas on how to successfully manage your remote employees:
Tip #1: Communicate frequently
The key to remote work is an open and transparent communication between employees and their managers. In companies that don't have experience with remote workers, managers may not be used to managing their employees virtually. Furthermore, the company might not have a set of tools ready to enable the remote work, nor the experience needed to use them.
As this may lead to a communication breakdown, your first job is to establish structured communication channels, starting with the daily check-ins. These check-ins may take a form of daily team meetings or one-on-one interactions, whatever better suits the current needs of your work process.
It's essential to make these check-ins predictable and constant so that the employees can rest assured knowing they will be heard if they have a problem, or that they will have their burning questions answered. Ensure that your employees are clear about their role, how, and when their work should be completed.
However, learn from the example of the great business giants, such as Dell's HR services, claiming that it doesn't matter where their employees work, as long as the job is done with the results company wants. So, forget about micromanaging.
Tip #2: Use the right tools
To enable the transparent and smooth communication flow, and manage your remote employees efficiently, you need to have the right technology. Most of the employees are well versed in using email, cloud, and various video-conferencing options. Even if they haven't been using these tools for professional purposes, they won't find it too hard to adapt to a cyber workplace and collaborative tools that are beneficial for remote working.
If your company is still not using any collaboration tools, fortunately, there are many great and quite affordable options that you can choose from. Some of the best-known tools are Slack, Trello, Microsoft Team, or Zoom. These tools are easy to use and have many useful options that will enable quick and efficient cooperation.
Tip #3: Make sure they're working regular hours
You should also make an engagement policy, and define when the work-related communication happens, as well as which tools to use for what purposes. With too many tools around, and communication flowing all the time, you may end up having your employees working 50-60 hours a week, as they will feel the pressure to complete the task they're informed about right away.
This may lead to forming some unhealthy habits, such as not taking sensible breaks, not leaving the house, or doing anything meaningful besides the work for the whole day. Your employees mustn't feel as if they are at work all the time, so you have to make it a policy not to use these tools outside the working hours and during the weekends, except in the cases of emergency, which should also be precisely defined.
Tip #4: Encourage social interaction
One of the crucial steps for keeping your staff engaged with their work is by structuring the ways for the informal social interaction between your remote employees. Such communication can reduce the feelings of social isolation and strengthen the sense of belonging to the organization.
One of the easiest ways is to begin your team meetings with some informal talk, just to catch up with each other. You can also be more creative when it comes to informal communication, and organize a video-conference office party, or virtual hang-outs, whatever you may find appropriate.
Tip #5: Watch out for the signs of stress
You may be well equipped to recognize the signs of stress at the regular workplace – your employees will be absent from work more often, behave strangely, and their productivity will decrease.
However, when the employees are not within your sight, many signs of stress or burnout may go unnoticed. Especially in times of crisis, with such an unexpected change, they may even start to feel guilty or worried because they are working from home and still not delivering up to the level they 're used or to.
➡️ Check out our Guide for HR Professionals: How to avoid burnout and retain your employees?
BONUS: 3 productivity techniques you can teach your remote employees
Most of the remote employees find it hard to manage their time when they are working from home. Some useful tools may teach you all how to improve your productivity, and if you want to give your staff a real boost, teach them about the most common time management techniques:
Productivity technique #1: Eisenhower Matrix
By using this technique, your remote employees can decide on their priorities quickly by classifying their tasks as urgent/not urgent or important/not important. Jobs that are important and urgent need to be finished immediately, while the tasks that are important but not urgent can easily be postponed.
Your employees will learn that they can delegate the tasks that are not important but are urgent, and forget about the jobs that are neither urgent nor important.
Productivity technique #2: Biological prime time
Every employee has the time of the day when even responding to an email seems too challenging. On the other hand, there is that period of the day, called biological prime time, when they're most productive, and that they can use to work on their most complex tasks.
Advise your employees to log their time and activities for a few weeks so that they can have an insight into their prime time and organize their actions accordingly.
Productivity technique #3: Pomodoro technique
When your remote employee has a complicated task ahead, which requires a lot of time and concentration, they might find it beneficial to split it into four 25-minute sessions, with 5-minute breaks.
After the cycle is complete, they need to take a 20-minute break. Even though it may seem odd, these planned breaks can help your employees gather enough energy to continue with their tasks and regain focus.
➡️ Check out additional 5 Tips to Ensure Your Remote Employees Are Productive!
Key takeaways: How managers can support remote employees
Don't wait for your employees to be the ones to start the conversation about the challenges they're facing during the transition phase. Have regular check-in chats, and don't shy away from asking the right questions. Offer your emotional support and encouragement, as they most probably could use your help.
The transition from the regular workplace to remote work is challenging for every party involved, especially when the changes are sudden and unplanned. By understanding the challenges the remote employees face, and using the tips above to cater to their needs, you can make this transition much more comfortable.
About the author
Keith Coppersmith is a business and marketing expert who has experienced both the rise and fall of many businesses. As a regular contributor at BizzmarkBlog, he enjoys writing and providing insight into the marketing industry based on both practice and theory.