The COVID-19 pandemic has forced managers with no experience supervising remote staff to adjust to the circumstances on short notice. With no certainty as to when the pandemic will end, employers must consider a future that involves more remote work.
A March 2020 Glassdoor survey on the impact of COVID-19 reveals that 67% of respondents would support the employer's decision to roll out indefinite work from home flexibility, and 50% expect to be equally or more productive at home as in the office.
A Buffer survey titled "The 2020 State of Remote Work" reveals that 98% of respondents would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. Respondents acknowledged the challenges with working remotely, which are collaboration and communication (20%), loneliness (20%), not being able to unplug (18%) and distractions at home (12%). Other challenges include lack of face-to-face supervision, internet connectivity issues and reduced information access.
Remote work is here to stay, but without long-term strategies, inefficiency and performance declines could result. An online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program can prepare you well to meet the challenges of managing remote workers. What approaches can bosses take to maintain engagement, collaboration and productivity while offering support and boosting morale?
- Hire for Remote Work Capability
Working outside of a workplace is not a natural fit for everyone. Some people need the structure, oversight and presence of others to stay motivated. Some have demonstrated success in remote working environments, while others are more unsure of the switch.
Job candidates with demonstrable histories of successful remote work are great. If you have to consider candidates without such experience, personality tests such as Myers-Briggs can help you assess their readiness. For example, extroverts tend to have a more difficult time with the transition, according to HR Technologist. For example, "sensing" personality types perform better working remotely with outcome-focused, research-oriented tasks, and "intuition-led" personality types are more at risk for panic when cut off from in-person interactions.
- Set Clear Expectations and Structure
The assertion of expectations is even more critical for remote work than in face-to-face environments. Employees feel confident and assured when they have guidelines, protocols and processes for all daily work and contingencies. Provide information in writing on performance evaluation standards, attendance tracking procedures, reward systems, work priorities, resources, milestones, work-life balance and other expectations.
Keep employees accountable to a structured system by asking them to provide you with a work schedule of what they expect to accomplish within a given time frame. This calculation will keep you from worrying that work is not getting done or deadlines are in jeopardy.
- Create Communication Policies and Processes
One of the most adverse scenarios for an employee suddenly working from home is not knowing how to communicate with their managers and co-workers. Managers must set expectations for group, one-on-one and collaborative meetings, including intra-team communication, especially in project management situations.
Employees should know how and when they can reach managers and who to contact in case of absence. Monitoring the communication among employees ensures that a constructive flow of ideas and information is taking place. Establish these expectations from the outset because communication breakdowns quickly lead to dissatisfaction, insecurity and chaos.
- Build in Flexibility
Though the pandemic is accelerating the shift to remote work, the trend has been building for years. Millennials value work-life balance, and for many, remote work is the key to it. To retain talented employees and accommodate their lifestyle preferences, have defined shifts with some flexibility in hours. For instance, a parent with children in school may need the time for drop-off and pick-up but can make up the lost time in the evenings or early mornings.
The transition to remote work does not have to be an overnight success. Make the shift gradually and allow time to learn what works and what does not, from your processes and procedures to the technologies that make remote work possible. Help workers adapt to remote employment in waves to identify any problems and fix them while minimizing performance and productivity risks.
Once you begin offering remote work, new possibilities will become open for your team and organization. You will no longer be limited to the local supply of talent; you will have access to workers who precisely match your specific needs and see an employee retention advantage in your marketplace. You will even be able to keep your organization running around the clock, servicing constituents in multiple time zones and around the world. As with any major transition, managing remote workers successfully requires comprehensive planning.
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