20 Mar 2020
8 Best Practices for Managing Your New Remote Workforce
Read time: 3 minutes, 44 seconds
According to a survey conducted by Workhuman only 1/3 of the U.S. population has access or experience working from home. As a result, a fast growing crisis that puts employees in the position to work from home can cause chaos and panic.
It is normal for a small business, agency, or corporation that does not offer this flexibility to worry that productivity will plummet when implementing such processes. The good news is, there are proven best practices managers can quickly adopt to keep their people engaged and performing while working from home.
It begins by understanding what many employees are feeling. By implementing certain straightforward practices, you can fill the gaps and recreate the structure your people need to continue functioning as a cohesive, productive team. These include:
Establish Clear, Open Lines of Communication
Good teamwide communication is your first priority. Decide how the members of your team will regularly communicate—via email, phone, messaging, videoconferencing, etc.—and make sure everyone is on board with the plan. It may make sense to assign different rules for different purposes, such as directing employees to message you with urgent questions, but reserve daily conference calls for routine updates.
Create a Set Communication Schedule
Establishing a predictable communication schedule not only sets expectations for employees, but provides a much-needed anchor for stability those who are having trouble adjusting. For example, you may choose to check in by phone with each employee at a fixed time each day…hold team videoconferences on Monday and Thursday mornings…and end each workday by exchanging update messages. Be sure to let your people know the best way to reach you when something comes up.
Implement Individual and Team Project Plans
Keep in mind: research indicates that about half of the workforce, remote or onsite, doesn’t really know what’s expected of them. Without the structure of daily office activities, it’s important that everyone knows what they’re expected to work on, when it’s due, and the desired outcome. If your company has project management software, use it. If you identify a need for it, start exploring your options.
Make Sure the Team Connects Frequently
One of the biggest challenges of newly remote employees is the feeling of isolation. Conducting regular weekly team “meetings” not only keeps projects moving but keeps people connected and engaged. Videoconferencing is particularly effective for people who are used to seeing each other’s faces, so consider software like Zoom, Skype or GoToMeeting. (If your employees need webcams, it may be a worthwhile investment.) Also, build in some extra time for socializing—in order to keep performing, people need to feel that they belong to something greater than themselves.
Give Each Employee Your Personal Attention
Yes, individual phone calls are time-consuming for managers, but those one-on-one conversations may be critical to your employees. Encourage them to share their questions and concerns with you. Beyond the work at hand, periodically ask them how they are handling working remotely—and listen closely. You can’t address a problem or challenge if you don’t know what it is.
Be Flexible with Your Assignments and Expectations
Some employees may not be able to perform their routine activities during normal business hours. Allow for flexibility and monitor the quality of work and the timeliness of completion. Giving them the flexibility with the time they are working can give them extra incentive to be proactive with their projects.
Set a Good Example for Your People
Daily lives can become distracting and stressful. Project a calming, confident demeanor, and you team will take its cues from you.
Monitor and Address Emerging Work Process Needs
You might initially be surprised by how well things appear to be going, but don’t become complacent. Listen to your people; keep a close eye on what’s getting done and where the fault lines are. For example, if you’re experiencing communication gaps or having trouble collaborating remotely, consider investing in team management software that combines workplace chat, video meetings and file sharing functions. Let your people know you’ll be making some changes as needed to everyone working at their best and that you welcome their input.
Keep this in mind: your employees are as invested as you are in helping your business grow. Give them the tools, structure and support they need, and you’ll get the desired results.