In the past 15 years, pre-COVID, remote work has grown by 140%, approximately 10 times faster than the workforce as a whole (Skip the Drive). Before COVID, over 4.3 million employees were already working remote (Google Workplace Analytics). Now, more than ever, remote work is becoming the new “normal” for most businesses across the globe. So how can employers manage and support remote employees? Here’s a checklist to help you and your employees find a system that leads you to greater success.
Understanding the Challenges of Working Remote
According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020, the most challenging aspects of working remote include:
– Collaboration and communication
– Lack of social interaction
– Inability to unplug
To help combat these issues, below are some tips employers can use to improve and address the challenges of remote work.
Collaboration and communication, lack of social interaction: Schedule days, times, and means for team interaction whether that be the entire team and/or individual one-on-one meetings. This can help bridge any gaps in project details, as well as open honest dialogues regarding any struggles your employees may be facing. Be sure to follow up regularly. This not only provides your employees ample opportunity to discuss projects or underlying issues, but also to interact more frequently with you and the team.
Inability to unplug: Oftentimes working remote provides employees the benefits of improved family and personal life, lowered stress levels, increased morale and engagement, fostered trust and respect, and promoted collaboration (MIT). However, it can be difficult to unplug when your workstation now resides in your home. Employers can help employees unplug by:
— Respecting employee work hours. While you likely have loyal employees willing to help whenever they can, in non-urgent matters, make a note to connect with the employee in the morning during normal business hours. This can help reduce employee burnout and ensure a refreshed employee.
— Encouraging rest breaks. Sometimes the working from home can help the day fly by and allow employees to forget to eat or stretch throughout the day. Encourage your employees to take short breaks away from their workstations to grab lunch, go for a quick walk around the block, or sneak some snuggles with their children.
— Turning off their computers at the end of the day. Something as simple as shutting down a computer can help employees unplug. Silencing notifications of work apps (i.e., Teams, emails, etc.) outside of work hours can also help deter employees from engaging in non-urgent work matters outside of their normal work hours.
Distractions: One way to alleviate distractions is reaching out to remote employees or finding relevant articles and videos on tips and tricks for working remote. Not all employees cope with the challenges of working remote as other remote employees. Sometimes what someone finds useful in the work environment can benefit other workers in the same situation.
Establishing Clear Expectations
The first and best way to foster a healthy, productive remote work relationship with employees is to establish clear expectations. This can range from meetings, progress on projects, availability and communication, and collaboration. Here are some tips on establishing clear expectations.
— Organize and adapt. Establishing a team or company-wide policy that employees must be available during normal business hours or that all emails must be answered by end of day can be one way to set clear expectations. Whatever you expect from your employees, make sure that (1) it is clearly communicated to them, and (2) you are willing to adapt as necessary. Like the course of business operations, remote work oftentimes changes. Be mindful that policies and procedures that work in an in-person office setting may not be applicable or efficient for a remote work environment. Adapt your expectations and policies to consider and address remote work challenges.
— Track employees’ progress. The best way to establish what works and what doesn’t is tracking employees’ progress. If someone is falling behind on projects, reach out to them to discuss what hurdles they may be facing. Promptly addressing these issues and working directly with the employee can streamline the problem-solving process.
— Encourage collaboration. A common mistake employers make in remote work settings is micromanaging. Instead, utilize project management tools like Wrike, Trello, or Slack where it is easy to communicate with your team, as well as track employees’ progress. Another alternative could be scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings to discuss projects, ensure employees are on track, and discuss any issues that may arise.
— Promote open, honest dialogues. The best way to establish clear expectations is to promote conversations with your team. This can be opening opportunities for employees to provide feedback without fear of retaliation, sharing positive feedback, host virtual happy hours, and celebrate successes. These dialogues should encompass professional and personal (where applicable) development, individual and team work, and all the ups and downs your team faces.
Selecting and Supplying Adequate Tools
Just because your employees are working remote, doesn’t mean their value should be reduced. To ensure success in the remote workplace, identify and provide the appropriate tools to your employees. These tools may include:
– Ergonomic office supplies (i.e., keyboard, mouse, chairs)
– Project management tools (i.e., Wrike, Trello, Slack)
– Communication tools (i.e., Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom)
– Online learning opportunities (i.e., webinars, training workshops, certifications)
If you’re looking for ways to improve your remote work process and procedures, contact QBS. Our HR experts have many years of industry experience to provide best practices, resources, and support to assist you and your employees find greater success in the remote workplace.