Looking back a few months and noticing how everything has changed because of COVID-19 is more than enough to run a chill down the spine. There are so many uncertainties that COVID-19 has presented in front of the world that everyone is forced to change the work process. Thousands of companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely.
Though work-from-home is nothing new, and almost every company has some policy revolving around it, there was no way anyone was ready for such a paradigm shift. Many employees and managers are working from home for the first time, and managing remote employees has become the biggest challenge for the managers as they have to keep the employees motivated and productive.
It is always preferred to have a clear remote-work policy structure and training procedure in advance, but this is the time of crisis, and circumstances changed so rapidly that most of the organizations were not prepared for it. However, many specific steps are based on years of research that can help managers to improve productivity and engagement for new remote employees.
Common challenges of remote work
To understand how you can effectively managing remote employees, it is essential first to understand the common challenges of remote work your team may face. In such time you either have already noticed or see a substantial fall in the performance graph of the employees who are in general high-performing stars of the organization. The main reason behind such a fall is the absence of training and preparation. Some of the challenges of remote work are as follows:
- Absence of face-to-face supervision
Managers and employees face an unprecedented challenge of lack of supervision during a remote work environment. While managers often get worried that their team will not work to the full potential, the employees, on the other hand, struggle with the limited access to direct communication with the managers.
- Lack of information
When you work in an office environment, it is very easy to gain access to the information from coworkers. However, in a remote work environment, such access is limited and getting answers to even simpler questions takes time and effort. Team members often do not understand the current circumstances of the coworkers and take offense to the queries or remarks in the mails. Without face-to-face interaction between the employees, it is not easy to judge the tone of the message.
- Social isolation
One of the major complaints that every employee has while working from home is the lack of informal social interaction that is common in an office environment. It is harder for the extraverts to suffer from loneliness that comes with isolation. Still, in the long run, all employees may start to feel dethatched from the organization.
- Distractions at home
You might have seen photos and videos of people holding their children while working from home or sounds coming from the background where kids are giggling, or family members are chatting. These all are part of the distractions one may face while working from home. The schools and daycare centers are closed, and people are facing unexpected responsibilities of being around the family. During the unplanned work-from-home transition, such distractions are expected to affect the productivity of the employees.
Methods of motivating employees in an organization
Understanding challenges makes it easier for managers to take the required steps to keep the employees engaged and motivated to improve productivity. Here are a few tried and tested methods of motivating employees in an organization during work from home.
- Well structured daily check-ins
Those who have worked previously with remote employees suggest that a daily check-in form of a group call or a series of one-on-one calls can improve productivity. The employees not only get a sense of regularity in the routine but also get a platform where their queries and concerns will be heard.
- Choose different modes of communication
You need to understand that email alone is not going to work. You have to use the richer modes of communication such as video conferencing. When you have to discuss something in a small group of employees, video conferencing can give the employees the same feeling of having a team meeting now and then. It helps in reducing the sense of isolation among teams as well. Software like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are among the most favored nowadays.
- Rules of engagement
Set the expectations for the frequency, means and suitable time of communication with the team members. While you can use video conferencing for the daily check-ins, messengers, SMS, emails and other modes of communication can be used for urgent support. Let the employees know you are available when needed.
- Social interaction
Many employees must be feeling distressed due to the sudden change in the work environment. Social distancing is not everyone’s cup of tea and as the manager; it is your responsibility to give them space to interact with fellow team members socially. Once or twice in the week during the video conferencing, let everyone have time to interact with each other and discuss how the week is going for them.
- Be the listener and offer emotional support
Every once in a while, ask your employees in person if they are doing okay while working from home. Allow them to tell how the whole situation is working for them. Based on your experience, guide them on how they can manage the situation in a better way. Listen to their problems and be there for emotional support.
Tools for managing remote employees
There are many tools for managing remote employees. You can use them as per your requirements. Please have a word with the IT department in your organization for a better understanding of these tools.
Basecamp is one of the most favored choices among managers, freelancers, and agencies. It is simple to use software with high functionality. This project management and team collaboration software solution help the managers to work on projects and communicate with the team as well as clients in a meaningful way.
- Cloud services
Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Dropbox, or Personal FTP based cloud servers come in handy to share documents between team members. It helps in keeping all the files in a central location accessible to everyone working on them.
- Video conferencing apps
Skype, Google Duo, and Zoom are among the most widely used video conferencing apps in current times. While Skype is an old player, Zoom is currently leading the market because of its efficient user interface and easy-to-use features.
- Note-taking apps
Applications such as WooBoard and Evernote are ideal for team members to take notes and share them if required. They are excellent at taking minutes of the group meetings.
Give everyone some space
As mentioned before, remote work is not everyone’s cup of tea. The sudden change in the work environment can not only reduce productivity; it can affect the mental health of the employees as well. As a manager, you must sort out the plans and make the transition easier for the team members. By understanding the challenges and possible solutions associated with work from home, it is much easier to make a sustainable plan for better communication.