Ways to manage a remote workforce are one of the highest queries searched by managers in the Covid-19 lockdowns. as there’s a lot of difference between teams sitting in an office to work versus when they work outside the office, from their own homes or cafes.
Organizations with large workforces across countries and the world, as well as recent start-ups without very formal work settings have made the switch to working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, different organizations and researchers have noticed a few advantages and disadvantages when it comes to working with a remote workforce.The advantages include savings in terms of money spent on office space, talent acquisition, travel, food, office supplies, etc.
Some employees may also find work from home opportunities more flexible in terms of work hours, settings, dressing, and thus be more at ease and work better. On the other hand, working from home poses challenges such as lack of face-to-face communication, reduced opportunities for supervision, social isolation, lack of team bonding, more pronounced cultural differences, different time zones, and the presence of many more distractions at remote places or homes.
Yet, despite all these challenges, trends show that employees do want to work remotely as they believe it not only saves their time but also resources. Hence, with a high possibility of future workforces being remote, organizations need to understand how to prepare and manage this workforce so that the challenges mentioned above can be decreased and organizations can have a competitive edge.
Three key methods to manage remote workforce by management and managers are the following:
- Set Clear Expectations:
Setting clear expectations is a crucial factor to smooth communication and workflow within a team. When employees have clear expectations they focus on what they need to deliver and what they should be careful about in the future.
This can be done by taking care of the following things:
- Set a clear weekly goal for employees, after setting this yourself. Ask the employees what their goal is for the upcoming week?
- Set the scope, deadlines, and available resources for each project your team is working on.
- Take the initiative to support them by asking, “What else do you need?” or “How can I help you in this project?”.
- Give enough freedom to employees to figure out how and when to get the work done.
- Have regular check-ins:
Daily or almost regular meetings are one of the key factors that determine remote work success as it opens up a window of regular feedback.
In some cases when time zones or the project are different across teammates, then having a one-to-one meeting can also be helpful. Nevertheless, the need for team meetings arises every once in a while and a collective meeting should be organized while taking into account all factors including time zones and nature of the project.
The following questions a manager can ask at these meetings to help employees are:
- What directions and resources do you need to move forward on your current projects?
- How do you feel about your capacity and current workload?
- What clarity do you need on your priorities for this week?
- What could help you to meet your current commitments and responsibilities?
- What roadblocks are you facing and how can we help you?
It’s also crucial to lead online meetings effectively as communication is harder via online platforms. It’s also necessary to use effective communication tools such as slack, zoom, Microsoft teams, etc that help to connect the team whenever the employees need to.
To ensure that meetings are relevant and effective managers can:
- Set a predetermined meeting duration, for a maximum of 40 minutes, to ensure employees have enough breaks before their next meeting and be proactive during the meetings.
- Have predefined goals and future tasks for the meetings, make sure that the meeting results in some outcomes rather than just roundabout discussions.
- If employees are working strange hours, unavailable for an online meeting, think about any alternative method to convey the information and goals to them.
- Opportunities to create remote social interaction:
One of the biggest challenges for remote work is to make employees interact socially including informal conversations about non-work topics such as sports, politics, and personal affairs. This is crucial as it builds the foundation of trust and teamwork within teammates.
So how can management build this social interaction?
Well, the easiest way might be to have some basic social interaction at the beginning of every team meeting where the manager can start with “We’re going to spend the first few minutes just catching up with each other. So, how was your weekend? What new movie or series are you guys watching nowadays?”.
Other options include virtual parties in which food is delivered to all team members at the time of meetings and an hour’s slot is saved every Friday to play virtual games, have conversations and discussions, or do a shared activity.
These types of events may sound artificial or forced, but research suggests that employees reported that these events help to reduce their feeling of isolation and build a sense of belonging within the team.
Furthermore, remember to be respectful about national and community specific holidays of team members
As the corporate world is changing at a great pace, remote workforces prove to be the future of organizations. Being prepared for this change is a necessity for corporations. The responsibility for effectively managing remote employees not only lies with managers but also management. Hence, the management needs to build policies that attract and retain talented employees, and managers need to find the balance to effectively build a team that probably will not get to meet each other on a one-on-one basis..