In response to the threat of Coronavirus, a lot of businesses have asked their employees to work from home. Due to these uncertain times, many employees and managers are working remotely for the first time. Even though it’s always beneficial to establish remote work policing and some training in advance, but in times like the present, this kind of preparation might not be feasible. However, there are some specific research-based things that managers can take to keep productivity and engagement and to better manage remote employees even when there’s little time to get prepared. 

Common Challenges of Remote Working

First, managers have to understand the factors which can make remote working more demanding. Otherwise, the high-performing workers might experience a decline in their engagement and job performance while working remotely. Some of the challenges that managers have to be aware of include:

  • Lack of access to the information: often newly remote employees are surprised by the extra time and effort requires to get information from colleagues. Even getting responses for simple questions can become a big obstacle to a home-based worker. Not being able to use office phone system can also become an obstacle in acquiring information that is needed. 
  • Lack of in-person supervision: Both employees and managers often show concern about the lack of in-person interaction. Managers worry that their team won’t work as efficiently as they do in office. Contrarily, a lot of employees struggle with less access to supervision and support. In some cases, workers feel that remote supervisors are unaware of their needs and hence are neither helpful nor supportive in getting the work done. The employee tracking software used to track employee working status.
  • Distractions at home: Often there are pictures of remote workers holding children and typing on the laptop. However, it is a bad representation of effective remote work. Usually, we encourage managers to make sure that their remote employees have a dedicated workspace for working from home. However, in the sudden transition to virtual work, there’s a greater chance that workers will contend with suboptimal workspace and unexpected responsibilities. With family circumstances and demands at home, managers should expect such distractions to be greater for unplanned remote work transition.
  • Social isolation: Loneliness is a common complaint from remote employees, as they miss the informal social interaction. Long term isolation can cause an employee to feel that they don’t belong to their company and can sometimes result in intentions of leaving the company. 

Ways Managers Can Support their Remote Employees

  • Set up planned daily check-ins: A lot of successful managers establish daily phone calls with their remote workers. They can do one-on-one phone calls with employees who work more independently from each other, or they can do a team call if their employees work in collaboration. The most important feature is that the phone calls are predictable and regular. This way all your employees can consult managers and get their questions answered. 
  • Offer emotional support and encouragement: managers should understand that it’s important to acknowledge and empathize with their employees’ stress, concerns, and anxieties, especially in context to the Coronavirus threat. If an employee is working remotely for the first time then managers have to ensure they ask the employee how they are doing and help them out. Listening carefully is important, it ensures your employees that you understand them. And it can help reduce their stress and concerns. 
  • Offer opportunities for remote social interaction: one of the most important steps for managers is to set ways for employees to interact socially while working remotely. An easy way to establish social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of the call for general conversation. Such little efforts can help reduce employees’ feelings of isolation and can promote a sense of belonging. 
  • Offer numerous different communication technology options: at times emails are not enough. Remote employees benefit from having rich technological platforms like video conferencing. This way, workers can get a lot of visual cues that they can have if they were face to face to face. Video conferencing has a lot of benefits, particularly for small groups. The visual cues increase mutual knowledge among co-workers and it can help reduce the sense of isolation. There are circumstances when quick collaboration is needed than visual detail. For situations like these employers need to provide mobile-enabled functionality such as Slack, VoIP Business, MS teams, etc. With tools like VoIP telephone system managers can collaborate in more than one way. They can not only collaborate but also track employee performance. If your business does not have such technological tools then you can even try them for free before making a purchase. 
  • Create “rules of engagement”: Remote work can be more satisfying and effective when managers have set expectations for means, frequency, and timing of communication for their employees. For instance, use video conference for daily check-ins and use instant messaging when something is urgent’. Also, provide your employees with time when they can reach yours during the day. Finally, keep an eye on team communication to make sure they share the information needed. Managers should create some rules of engagement for employees. Whilst some options about particular expectations might be better than others, the most important thing is that every employee shares the same set of expectations for communication. Of the most important 

Research on emotional contagion and emotional intelligence suggests that employees look up to their managers for cues for reacting in crisis. If a manager communicates stress then it can have a negative effect on employees as well. Effective leaders have to take a two-pronged approach, acknowledging both anxiety and stress which employees might be feeling in hard situations but also offering them affirmation of confidence. Employees are likely to take up any challenge with support.

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