5 Tips for Managing the Needs of Remote Employees
As many of us have settled in to our COVID-19-era work-from-home routine, we have to admit — although there are cons to working from home, there are certainly some pros, too. And we can’t help but wonder: will it be business as usual in the office once the pandemic is over? Or will working from home become more commonplace?
According to Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, it’s possible that 25–30% of the workforce will be working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021. From an employee’s perspective, that’s a lot of potential flexibility! But from a managerial perspective, it must be said that traditional management tactics don’t always work best out of office.
With that in mind, if remote work might be here for the long-haul, it’s a good idea to put strategies in place now that could really help your business later. Below are a few tips on managing the needs of remote employees, for those looking to get started.
1. Encourage One on Ones
It’s so much easier to connect with people when you’re working in the same space. Want to talk to Jim about the report that’s due on Thursday? Sure, you can schedule a meeting, but you can also just pop by his desk and see if he’s free. And it’s not all about work — from water-cooler chats to lunchtime hangouts, there’s plenty of opportunity to create rapport in the office that just doesn’t exist online.
While making sure you always have your status updated online is a good start (i.e. if you’re using Skype, make sure you’re reading as available), scheduling regular one-on-ones with employees is a great way to facilitate communication outside of the office. That could mean short daily check-ins, or weekly 45-minute meetings — whatever suits your schedule! Just make sure your communication is predictable, frequent, and gives your employee a space to ask for what they need.
2. Offer Emotional Support
As the Harvard Business Review acknowledges in this article on transitioning to remote work, to say the last few months have been stressful for employees is an understatement. That being said, it is especially important to be mindful of how your employees are handling the current moment.
Since employees often look to their managers for cues on how to behave, and in this case, that can mean something as simple as acknowledging the struggles you’re experiencing, and providing a positive affirmation. For instance — “you know, it’s not easy to complete this project remotely, but I’m really impressed with the work we’ve been doing.” By creating a safe space for employees, you’re not just addressing their needs, you’re encouraging them to tell you what those needs are in the first place.
3. Identify Productivity Standards
In the office, it’s easy for employees to get a sense of what a “productive” workday looks like — after all, they can observe the work culture, see which employees are getting praised, and can integrate what they observe into their own work style.
While working from home, however, it’s easy for employees to feel a little lost, or unproductive; after all, they’ve had to completely change up their working behavior. Standardizing WFH productivity standards can help employees feel like they’re on the right track — whether that means constant manager check-ins, or just simple policy reminders, like “ensure all client-facing emails are answered by EOD.”
4. Mix Things Up
Remember: what works best for one employee might not work best for another. When it comes to managing employees needs in a remote work environment, it’s essential to mix things up every once in a while, so that everyone’s needs are truly being met.
Are your employees looking a little glassy-eyed in your Zoom meetings? Build in more breaks, try scaling back for a while, or even opting for good old-fashioned phone calls instead. Feel like your team is growing apart? Try out a few fixes — from special Slack channels to digital escape rooms, there are plenty of creative and fun ways to re-engage your team.
5. Be Flexible
Although this is a bit of an extension of tip #4, we felt it bears repeating. After all, at the end of the day, your company is unique — and so are your employees! No matter how much advice you seek out or how many articles you read, it’s impossible to know what strategy is going to be the best fit until you’ve tried a couple out.
So be patient, be communicative, and be flexible! So long as employees understand that you are actively invested in their wellbeing, the battle is already half won.
If you have any questions about how building a better, easier-to-use benefits system can make a huge difference for your employees (remote or otherwise) feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.