While remote working isn’t anything new, COVID-19 has pushed this concept to the forefront of many businesses. In fact, a Roy Morgan study revealed that since the pandemic started, 32 per cent of working Australians have been working from home. When we consider factors such as Government announcements allowing restricted percentages of workers back to the office and even global trends – such as the US, where 50 per cent of their workforce are comprised of the gig economy – remote working is going to become a long-term necessity.
However, adjusting to not having a physical office has placed a lot of pressure on businesses. Included in this, is trying to understand how to manage employees and teams remotely.
Mastering remote working is about finding the right strategies.
Establish a structure and expectations
Lack of face-to-face supervision is one of the most common concerns expressed by managers and employees. Managers have expressed concerns that employees will not work as hard, while employees struggle with reduced communication and access to managerial support.
Providing a structure – or plan – helps to resolve some of these issues. It is also particularly important for younger generations who may lack initiative or the ability to self-manage. This structure could start with daily check-ins with employees; a one-on-one call is one of the most successful ways of doing this. Or, planning out daily or weekly tasks, which is especially helpful to employees who require a more “hands on” approach.
Consider communication needs
Communication styles vary amongst employees. Coupled with this, is the challenge of getting information. A lot of employees find that the time and effort needed to get information from co-workers, or even answers to questions is much more laborious than being in the office. Which is why equipping employees with different methods is key for accommodating styles and mitigating risks around efficiencies.
Adopt different communication methods
Since COVID-19, the use of video calls/conferencing has risen. Video calls are great – as they enable face-to-face conversations and a way to have collaborative discussions. They can also reduce any sense of isolation from employees. However, use should be balanced as studies have shown that video call “features” – absence of visual cues, screen fatigue, and technology mishaps – require the brain to work harder. To mitigate: emails remain a standard approach, while Instant Messenger Platforms offer a good way to ask quick questions, or for any matters that are urgent.
Provide opportunities for social interaction
While research indicates that younger generations are struggling the most with feelings of loneliness and isolation, no employee is immune. When we consider the difference in personality types – especially those who perform at their best while around others – this transition proves even more of a challenge.
One way to mitigate this, is to find ways for employees to interact socially. Having team meetings to talk about non-work topics or setting up remote “offsites” that are fun and engaging, are a couple of simple ways to remove barriers.
Offer encouragement and emotional support
The transition from office to working from home takes time and isn’t always easy. It is important for managers to acknowledge stress, anxieties, and concerns of their employees and provide emotional support. Where possible, businesses should be investing in mental health, diversity and inclusion initiatives or connecting with relevant support networks to ensure employees are supported.
Remote working becomes more efficient when expectations are set for the way things are done. Having a clear structure, and strategies in place, will help ensure teams are supported, and continue to perform.
Jacqueline Cripps, Management Consultant and CEO, JCL