Remote Working

How to manage your (newly) remote team

Apr 27, 2020


In response to COVID-19, many companies, universities and schools have asked their employees to work remotely. Whilst, only 30% of the UK were working from home in 2019, 2020 has dramatically increased this due to the pandemic. As companies find themselves navigating through this time, we have come up with some great ways to ensure that engagement and productivity is high whilst working remotely.

Challenges of remote working

First, it is good to understand the challenges that employees face when remotely working. As a manager you need to understand the factors that can make remote working especially demanding. These include:

Lack of face-to-face supervision

This can be a challenge for both managers and employees. Supervisors worry that employees may not work as hard or as efficiently. Employees, on the other hand, struggle with a reduce in access to managerial support and communication.

Social Isolation

One of the biggest difficulties in working from home is people can suffer with loneliness. Anyone can miss the informal social interaction of an office setting. It can also make employees feel less ‘belonging’ to their organization, which is why it is important to make sure you keep them social through phone calls and video chats.

Distractions at home

We all know there can be numerous distractions at home. We encourage employers to ensure that their employees have a dedicated workspace allowing them to work remotely. However, even in normal circumstances, family and home demands can impinge on remote work; as a manger you should expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.

How managers can support remote employees

As much challenge remote working brings, there are also quick and inexpensive things that managers can do to ease the transition. They are as follows:

Establish structured daily check-ins

In order to make sure your team is running successfully, establish a daily call with your remote employees. This could either be in the form of one-to-ones calls, or a team call. It is of high importance that these calls are regular and that they are a forum in which employees know they can consult with you, and that any concerns or questions can be answered.

Instead of just asking ‘How are you doing?’ you may want to ask questions that dig deeper and give your team more space to answer you honestly about how they are really doing. Try some of these one-on-one meeting questions:

  • What are you currently doing to sustain yourself? Have you been able to take time for yourself, in any way? How can I support you in that? Is there anything we can be doing to support each other?
  • How is your level of energy these days? Do you feel drained or worn thin in more ways than usual?
  • What fears or trepidation do you have around the team and/or company, if any?
  • Are there any tasks or projects lately that feel more like a struggle than usual? Where is the weight coming from?

Providing different types of communication options

Remote workers benefit from having richer technology such as video conferencing, rather than just relying on email. This gives employees the opportunity for visual cues, that they would have if they were face-to-face. Video calling is particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.

Additionally, there are situations when it is needed of direct and quick communication. For this, platforms such as Slack & Microsoft Teams provide mobile-enabled individual messaging. This can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.

Give remote employees as much access to you as possible. When remote working, you can feel distant, so make sure you respond to them as quickly as possible.

Set clear expectations

Everyone has different ideas of what doing something ‘quickly’ or ‘well’ means. To make sure that employees are in line with your expectations, you need to either show examples of what you expect to be done and by what time. You can do this by calendar sharing etc. The more prepared they are, the better they can do their job.

Trust your team

Companies struggle with a remote workforce because they feel there’s an uncertainty about whether or not the work will get completed at the same level as if they were in the office. To combat this belief, make some WFH guidelines such as emails must be responded to within 24hrs. Use text for urgent matters and no calls between certain hours to make sure your employees are not working around the clock.

To avoid unintentionally hurting your team, take off some of that pressure and choose to trust your team. Trust – not tracking – engenders productivity.

Give opportunities for your team members to support each other

You can’t just rely on yourself to do all the supporting – instead, give opportunities for your team to support each other. Bonding together whilst everyone is socially distant is an important part of helping people cope with the transition to remote work.

For example, on a Friday, Highfield hold a Zoom video chat where everyone in the company can jump on and have a good catch up with each other.

Final Thoughts

We understand making sure that your newly remote workforce can be difficult. Hopefully, however, the above advice will act as a springboard for you to establish what works best for you and your teams.

If you have any questions or concerns about hiring in the current climate please contact your Highfield consultant.

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