In a bid to manage the spread of COVID-19, government and health officials have requested organizations and learning institutions to have their employees work from home. Research studies show that almost a quarter of the workforce in the US already works from home on either part-time or full-time basis.
Although every leader will prefer establishing clear remote-work policies in advance, this level of preparation might not be feasible in times of crisis. Fortunately, there are a few practical steps that managers can take without great effort to improve productivity and engagement levels of remote employees even when there is no adequate time to prepare. Before discussing these critical steps, let’s look at the common challenges that most remote workers face.
Challenges of remote work
Managers need to understand that there are factors that can make remote work challenging and frustrating. High performing employees may discover that their performance and engagement levels are declining as they start working remotely especially when there is no training or preparation. Some of the common challenges of remote work include:
1. Lack of community
Working alone with your dog and a computer screen to keep you company is different from the office environment. As a leader, you can’t pull all your remote workers into a quick meeting or stop by their desks to see how they are doing. There’s going to be some loss in friendships and trust since you won’t be meeting with your team every single day. Apart from the concern about work culture, cultural barriers can be an issue especially if you’ve hired employees from different countries.
Loneliness is a common complaint associated with remote work. Most employees miss the informal social interaction in the workplace. Research studies show that extroverts may suffer more from isolation than introverts especially when they don’t have opportunities to connect and interact with each other. Isolation can make employees feel less belonging to the company. And can result in high turnover rates.
Distractions are the number one killers of productivity in our world today. The urge to do what is fun and easy is stronger when working remotely than in the workplace because of several reasons. First, no one is monitoring or supervising you. You can do whatever you want when working remotely and get away with it.
Second, your mind has been conditioned to associate home with relaxation and pleasure. Therefore, it’s very difficult to work seriously from home especially if you don’t have a dedicated space for work. Finally, family members and friends can be a source of distraction especially for people who always say yes when they should be saying no.
Using the organization’s laptop for personal use or your laptop to access the organization’s sensitive data can be a recipe for disaster. It’s also difficult for managers to know if their employees are using the organization’s equipment in the right way.
Supporting remote employees
Working remotely can be challenging for both managers and employees. However, there are a few simple and practical steps that managers can do to ease the transition and solve problems effectively. They include:
1. Equipping the team with essential tools
One of the best ways to help your team succeed while working remotely is to equip them with tools that will help them connect and increase their productivity. These include gadgets like laptops and tablets and apps such as Airtable, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.
Equipping your team with these technologies will help all your employees move together regardless of their different working environments. These apps will also keep your team productive and connected when people start going back to work.
2. Daily check-ins are essential
Since managers are not getting the opportunity to meet with their employees to face to face and discuss work and life issues, creating a daily check-in routine is one of the best ways to create connections and set priorities. You can create a sense of normalcy through a morning check-in call, video chat, or message. These check-ins can be among individuals or groups. Tech and productivity tools will help you connect with your team and improve employee engagement.
3. Home offices are crucial
Every remote worker needs to have a dedicated workspace in their homes especially if they are working from home regularly. Managers should encourage their employees to create home offices that are not part of the communal space.
According to buy term paper service, a dedicated workspace will free employees from distractions at home. Encourage your team to leave their desks organized in the evening to avoid wasting time in the morning. The home office doesn’t have to be large. However, it should be separate from your bedroom, living room, or dining area.
4. Provide emotional support
Working remotely can lead to loneliness and a host of negative emotions. Therefore, employers should do all they can to provide emotional support to their employees. To provide emotional support, the leader has to be calm and present.
Leaders should always be present during office hours so that their team members can reach them easily. They should also encourage their teams to take care of themselves especially during this period. Encourage your team members to eat nutritious foods, get quality sleep, exercise, and shower regularly.
5. Dress for business
While dressing for business may not be a critical success tip for most remote workers, it may help some psychologically. Wearing pajamas and sweatpants while working can hurt your productivity because your mind is conditioned to associate them with relaxing, fun, or leisure.
Dressing up for business will help you feel better mentally and make it easier for you to achieve your daily goals. Plus, dressing properly will help you feel comfortable and confident when communicating with your coworkers. Encouraging your team to dress for business can improve productivity and performance.
6. Provide opportunities for social interactions
One of the most important steps a manager can take is creating ways for team members to interact informally about non-work topics while working from home. This is important for all employees especially those who are not used to working remotely.
The best way to establish social interactions is by leaving a few minutes at the beginning of calls for non-work topics. Ask them how they spent their weekend. Consider their opinions about team gathering functions and events. Such discussions can help in reducing or eliminating feelings of isolation and promoting unity.
7. Manage expectations
Help your team understand what they should do and create realistic expectations. You can improve your team’s productivity and performance by stating the tasks and helping your team understand how you’ll measure performance. You need to define the scope of your tasks and set deadlines for all the projects that your team is working on. When you focus on results, your team’s productivity and performance will greatly improve.
8. Be flexible
Your team is going through a lot at the moment. While this is not an excuse for failing to work, it can be the reason behind a decline in productivity. Being flexible and giving your team freedom will improve their performance in the long run.
All business leaders can manage their teams remotely and get back to the office when things get better. By understanding the problems that remote workers face and following these tips, leaders will attract and retain skilled employees in the long run.
Author: Thomas Lanigan
Thomas Lanigan has work experience for 4 years as a marketing specialist, social media manager, writer, journalist, and editor at superior paper writing service. Also, he is a professional content writer in such topics as blogging, marketing features, progressive education programs, business.