With working from home now the ‘new normal’, business leaders are having to revise their management strategies to reflect the physical distance between them and their teams. As more companies decide that remote working could be something they adopt over the longer term, it’s important that managers are ready to adapt to the challenges it brings.
So, how can you manage remote staff effectively during COVID-19 and beyond? We’ve canvassed the experts to bring you their top tips.
1. Define your expectations
The less time an employee spends in the office, the less clarity they’re likely to have about their manager’s expectations. Therefore, in the world of remote working, you must make it a priority to be explicit about exactly what you expect your staff to produce. The deadlines, metrics and outcomes must be crystal clear, as should the level of communication you expect from your team. If you want daily or weekly progress updates via email or video call, make sure you say so and hold the employee accountable.
2. Trust your team
One of the big changes this enforced and prolonged period of remote working has brought is an increased level of trust from managers in their team’s ability to work productively from home. Previously, there was a reluctance, particularly among larger organisations, to allow staff to work remotely. However, that uncertainty is slowly being broken down.
Creating work-from-home guidelines or ‘rules of engagement’ will help to further build the trust between management and employees. It should cover details such as how quickly staff are expected to respond to emails, how to contact management urgently, and the hours when video calls are allowed. That will help to prevent the line between work life and home life becoming blurred.
3. Offer encouragement and emotional support
To manage remote staff effectively, you must provide encouragement and emotional support, just as you would in the workplace. Stress and anxiety do not go away when the place of work changes. In fact, due to the lack of communication, it can make things worse.
Asking even general questions, such as “how is this remote working situation working for you?” can elicit much more information than you might expect. But asking the question is only half the job. You must also listen carefully to the response and repeat what the employee has said to you to make sure you understand it correctly. Then, you set about putting the practical and emotional support the employee needs in place to enable them to work effectively.
4. Don’t forget about career development
When your staff are working remotely, it’s very easy to think of them as an outsourced team who are helping you get things done. However, while they may not be there physically, you still need to treat them as employees. It’s all too easy to put their goals and ambitions on pause during a spell of remote working. Having weekly one-on-ones to discuss their career development and putting plans in place will help to reassure them that they’ve not been forgotten.
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