Managing Employees in Remote Workplaces

Current circumstances due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have forced many people to work remotely. This can be a challenge⁠remote workers sometimes feel that managers are out of touch with their needs, leading to greater job dissatisfaction.

But working from home can be done successfully with the right strategy in place. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most common issues you can address when integrating to a remote working model.

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Communication Shortfalls

Your employees are at home, meaning the most common mode of communication will be email or some other messaging software, like Slack. This can lead to miscommunication or even lack of communication, since not only are you losing nonverbal cues, you are also losing hallway conversations, quick office chats, and cubicle visits.

Lack of Structure or Trouble Adjusting to a New Routine

Since your employees are working from home, it may be difficult for them to know when to “log off” and stop working. Work hours may also fluctuate at this time.

Lack of Resources

Shifting to working at home can be a huge change for your employees. They may not have adequate resources to deal with the change, whether that be tangible resources (equipment) or less tangible resources, such as knowledge on how to improve mental health while working from home. This can lead to a less productive and less happy employee.

Distractions

The home environment is full of distractions. Pets, children, and not having a home office can hinder your employees’ ability to work. Without a clear-cut environment change (like leaving the office), it may also be hard for your employees to differentiate between relaxing at home and working at home.

Feelings of Loneliness

For some employees, loneliness may persist as they work remotely without the face-to-face interactions of the workplace. As a result, they are often left feeling isolated and lonely. 

Lack of Morale

The world is an uncertain, stressful place right now. All of these combining factors have a detrimental impact on employees’ morale when not adequately managed. Your employees might be feeling unmotivated, which can impact their work.

We’ve compiled a list of ways you can address these issues head-on. Making working from home part of your management strategy will help your employees perform better and lead to a more successful company.

Best Practices for Managing Employees Remotely

Come up With a Communication Strategy

To resolve communication issues in a remote workplace, come up with a communication strategy for internal use. How frequently do you want employees to report back to you? What is the most effective form of communication for your team (email, texting, phone call, or video)? 

Video calls show nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body language, which can prevent miscommunication. Tone is something else to consider, as it is easier to misinterpret what someone means through non-verbal, virtual communication. 

Consider if you want to make video calls a mandatory part of your workweek, and when you would use a video call over other forms of communication. Establish some rules or guidelineswhen should employees use calls as opposed to emails or instant messaging? Setting these guidelines ahead of time can make potentially confusing communication more clear.

For example, some guidelines could include:

  • Updating calendars with availability to replace an in-person “open door” policy
  • Using video call check-ins daily or weekly
  • Emailing follow-up notes after a meeting
  • Turning on webcams or using video calls for every meeting

Having a structured and clear strategy can make things easier and promote a more productive remote workplace.

Set up a Routine

A clear internal communication strategy can help establish structure for your employees. In addition, you can set some guidelines for a typical workday. These clear expectations can provide employees with a sense of structure that can help them set up a work routine.

An example of a guideline could be check-ins. Whether this is one-on-one or in a team, scheduling a check-in can help you touch base with your employees and see where they’re at. You can do this via video call (weekly) or instant messaging (daily). 

Check-ins also allow you to gain insight as to how your employees are dealing with their unique situations. You can figure out what they’re lacking, what they need, and how they feel, so you can better address their concerns.

To establish structure and routine for remote employees, you can also encourage them to use their calendars to block off times they aren’t supposed to work. This means that no work meetings will be scheduled at this time (for example, during lunchtime or a scheduled break). 

You can also establish an end-of-the-day routine, which will signal to employees when it’s time to turn off their computers and log off from work. This will prevent burnout and ensure that your employees take care of their well-being and mental health.

In your guidelines, you’ll also want to establish clear expectations such as:

  • Response time for messages
  • Working hours
  • How to communicate unmet expectations

Schedule Check-Ins and Establish a Mentorship Program

If you schedule daily or weekly check-ins with your employees, you can figure out what they’re lacking and what they need. If they are lacking resources, whether that be tangible (equipment) or intangible (knowledge about how to take care of their well-being and mental health), you can directly address these issues. Sending resources to your employees directly, such as mailing equipment to employees or sending an email with a well-being guide, ensures that their needs are met, which increases employee productivity.

In addition to communicating with employees through check-ins, establishing a mentorship program can aid in addressing employees’ concerns. The advice of a mentor, whether it’s from yourself or a peer mentor in the workplace, can assuage concerns. Mentorship can act as a valuable resource for employees to turn to, improving relationships in the workplace. 

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Improve Employee Workspaces and Encourage Breaks

If you find that your employees are having difficulties focusing, provide them with the resources they need to succeed. Send out guides or websites about how to minimize distractions at home.

You can also set up a meeting to ensure employees have a well-defined workspace that is free of distractions. This will make it easier for employees to differentiate between working at home versus relaxing at home, establishing a clear work environment at home that will boost productivity.

Encouraging employees to leave the home office and take a break can also boost productivity. Having them take a walk or do a quick at-home workout can help with refocusing so that employees can get back to work feeling refreshed and ready to take on new tasks.

Encourage Connection Over Video Calls

Working from home without the friendly faces from the workplace can make employees feel lonely. This can easily be addressed through video calls, which emphasize face-to-face connection. 

During a video call or a team meeting, ensure that some time is dedicated to non-work items. Give people some time to catch up and talk about how they’re coping with the move to remote work. This helps facilitate connections in the workplace to combat feelings of loneliness.

Boost Team Morale

If you have video check-ins scheduled, make sure you offer words of encouragement to the team. Acknowledge that this is a stressful time, but also emphasize that the team can overcome this challenge. Provide resources for addressing any concerns your employees may be facing, and offer optimistic words of wisdom.

Video check-ins are also useful for finding out what your employees’ goals are. How do they fit in the company? What do they want to accomplish? Giving them the necessary resources and tools they need to succeed can help with their morale and productivity.

Increasing recognition can help boost morale as well. Rewarding people for providing desired results can lead to a more productive workplaceperhaps having a fun weekly challenge, competition, or game can give employees something to look forward to.

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In addition to advising best practices for remote employee management, Imagine Better Solutions also helps with employee retention and management strategies for millennials. As a company that strives to be a one-stop shop for ease of management, we have all of your HR needs covered.