There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every remote worker across every industry. But integrating information in this guide into your strategy can help you maintain the productivity of your team, boost morale, and help everyone cope with the new set of challenges you’re facing.
Remote work has been on the rise for years now, a trend that’s only sped up after COVID-19. Since March, businesses across the planet were forced to scramble their workforce and shift to remote work or close altogether.
Research from Statista revealed that 53 percent of American employees worked from home at least one day per week before COVID. What’s more, the number of people working remotely five days or more weekly grew to 44 percent, up from 17 percent before COVID.
If we weren’t sure beforehand, it’s clear now that remote work is here to stay. Even as businesses start strategizing to bring employees back to the physical office, the majority of workers want the option to continue working remotely. While workers have had to hustle to set up their new at-home offices, supervisors have been forced to adapt to a new management style.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for every remote worker across every industry. But integrating information in this guide into your strategy can help you maintain the productivity of your team, boost morale and help everyone cope with the new set of challenges you’re facing.
Understand the Potential Challenges Ahead
Before you can effectively manage your remote workers, you need to get familiar with the pitfalls that almost everyone experiences while working remotely. This also gives you a good starting point to open up the conversation if you notice one of your workers is struggling or there’s a dip in productivity.
Although you might think that productivity would suffer from the shift to remote work, a Stanford Study found that productivity can increase by up to 13 percent. Workers have more control over their working environment and typically take fewer breaks and sick days.
If you notice a decrease, that might be a sign that workers are experiencing difficulties. The 2020 State of Remote Work from Buffer surveyed 3,500 global remote workers. The results revealed some of the biggest struggles people experience, including loneliness and communication, both of which were cited by 20 percent of respondents as their biggest struggle. Other challenges include:
Inability to unplug (18%)
Being in a different timezone than the rest of the team (10%)
Maintaining motivation (7%)
Communication is Critical
Another major concern for employees and supervisors alike is the lack of face-to-face interaction. With less access to management, some employees start feeling like their supervisors are out of touch with their needs. The ability to collaborate with coworkers and access or locate information can feel like a huge obstacle too. After all, it’s not like you can walk down the hall or pop into the next cubicle to touch base.
Maintaining regular, clear communications is absolutely essential. Great communication is more important now than ever to ensure that everyone understands what's expected of them in addition to providing the means to discuss concerns or collaborate as needed.
Communicate clearly and regularly: Holding daily check-ins — either by phone, video, text or email — on a regular, predictable basis for individuals and regular meetings for teams.
Establish the expected frequency, timing and means of communication: It’s important to get everyone on the same page by setting the rules early on. For example, you might use text or instant messaging for urgent matters and video or audio calls for daily check-ins.
Offer Encouragement: COVID forced an abrupt transition, which was difficult for many people. It's important to let your team know that you're there as a sounding board for their concerns and empathize with their stress and challenges.
Pencil in a little extra time for socializing: Giving your remote workers the opportunity to chat a little bit socially can help boost morale and combat the isolation that comes with working from home. The easiest way to give your team chances to interact is to leave a little time at the beginning or end of your meeting to catch up on non-work subjects.
The Importance of Individualization Can’t be Understated
No two people are exactly alike. They don’t think the same, they don’t react in the same way and they shouldn’t be managed exactly the same. Each employee comes with a unique set of skills, personalities and backgrounds. They're also motivated and inspired in different ways. That's why you can't treat every employee the same.
It's critical to really get to know each worker. Talk to them about the conditions in which they perform at their best. Understand any workflow concerns they might have and get a feel for how they'll respond to different situations on an emotional level. The more information you can gather, the better you'll be able to predict how each remote worker will react, perform and motivate.
Trust Your Team
Trust is arguably more important than ever. You aren't going to be able to watch over remote workers the same way you could in-office. Research shows there's a direct correlation between trust and excellent collaboration, productivity and loyalty. In general, workers at high-trust companies typically experience lower levels of anxiety and stress, which supports high work performance. Data from Harvard Business Review showed that employees at high-trust organizations report having:
106% increase in energy at work
76% higher engagement
50% boost in productivity
40% less burnout
Managing a remote workforce isn’t always easy. But when you better understand the challenges that you and your employees are likely to face, create a strong communications plan, prioritize individualization and foster a high level of trust with your team, things can move much more smoothly — during the pandemic and in the days ahead.