You might be used to overseeing remote workers, but perhaps not at scale, and certainly not in the circumstances caused by the current Coronavirus outbreak. Businesses the world over are finding themselves in entirely uncharted waters right now. People are worried; companies are concerned; the world is in transition.
As a manager, you have a really big role to play. Your employees will look to you for guidance, reassurance, and stability. And understanding the best way to manage them throughout these strange and unprecedented times will help not only your business but your teams too.
Top tips for managing remote workers
- Establish clear communication: Out of sight, but not out of mind. That needs to be your ethos while your workers are scattered around the city or country. Set up sessions to contact your teams and individuals on a one-to-one basis. As well as helping to keep productivity up, regular communication will ensure every member of your team feels like they’re still part of something important. But calls shouldn’t focus on KPIs alone: check in on people; ask how they’re doing, and keep them updated with business developments that could affect them. This is a worrying time for people, and they will really appreciate the extra concern.
- Use the right tools: Phone conversations and emails are great, but try to use video as much as possible to decrease feelings of isolation; Skype, Zoom, Fuze, and Google Hangouts are just some of the many tools we now have for video conferencing. There are also tools that are invaluable for facilitating team conversations that are far more personal and collaborative than email – allowing you to create ‘channels’ for everything related to a project, topic or team. Effective communication is key.
- Set expectations: You may be rushed off your feet or have very little to do, depending on how your particular business has been affected by everything that’s going on in the world right now. Either way, it’s important for your team to understand exactly what’s expected of them right now. Their jobs may look a little different than normal, so set out some guidance around communication, deadlines, hours and output.
- Relax the rules: As important as your expectations are, it’s also essential to remember that throughout this, you may need to relax the rules. This isn’t home working for home working’s sake: many people will be at home with children who can’t go to school, or spouses, partners or friends who can’t go to work – so disruptions and distractions will be higher than usual. Schedule an informal catch up whether by phone or video conference call, reiterate the importance of taking regular breaks throughout the day, staying hydrated and general wellness, business is important, but your people are, too
It’s not all doom and gloom
Working remotely can really boost people’s job satisfaction and work/life balance; this can make remote workers even more productive than they would otherwise be.
People will also remember the acts of kindness and concern when all of this is over, so showing your workers a little compassion and support during this process will likely result in more engaged and loyal employees.
It could also be a good time for your business to explore more flexible working options, which could result in a positive cultural change overall. It can be daunting for organisations when the established way of doing business is threatened with change, but with no choice in the matter, you could find fresh ways of working that really do, well, work.