The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in remote work.
According to the leading analytics and advisory company Gallup, remote workdays in 2020 have more than doubled since last year in the US. And, one in every four American workers is now working entirely from home. Even the behemoths are working from home. Google has already made work from home mandatory until summer next year. Microsoft has gone one step further by making work-from-home a permanent option for employees.
So, remote work will be the new norm.
In fact, one survey by three researchers at Harvard Business School indicates that at least 16% of employees will remain, at-home workers, long after the pandemic ends.
Ultimately, you may need to enable remote work in your company. But, managing remote workers is not easy and it’s only harder if you’re new to it. You need to ensure your employees are productive, don’t feel isolated or lose focus, stay engaged and motivated, and thrive without much handholding.
Below are some suggestions that should help you make that happen.
Have the Right Communication Strategies and Tools in Place
Communication is critical for remote teams. When communication falters, a number of problems arise.
Of course, the work progress takes a toll, but employees can also start to feel lonely and isolated from the team and company. As interactions fall off, this tends to lower morale.
One-on-one communication between you and your workers will help you connect with them at a personal level, identify and solve their problems, and get game-changing insights and suggestions. However, virtual team huddles shouldn’t be ignored. Have a balanced communication schedule. Perhaps you can have weekly scheduled team meetings and bi-weekly one-on-one calls. You can even implement an open-door policy to remove any possibility of miscommunication within your organization.
Such a policy would encourage remote team members to reach out to the CEO or department heads to ask questions, raise concerns or complaints, or say anything else directly at any time. This will also improve employee morale and reduce employee turnover.
There are many communication tools around, such as Slack and Zoom, which you can use to communicate. You can even opt for project or task management and collaboration tools, such as Jira, ClickUp, or Trello.
With such tools, you can assign tasks to team members, add comments, outline the project steps in a checklist, and more. Doing so will help everyone in the team be on the same page and stay connected. But, you must choose the tool that suits you best. You can either opt for a free trial or use the limited version of the tool initially to evaluate whether the tool will work for you.
Finally, you can offer high-speed internet to your employees to ensure seamless communication.
Set up Employee Development Plans
Let’s face it, your employees joined your organization for one or more of the following three primary reasons – better earnings, growth, and learning opportunities.
You can attract top-notch talent by offering a better pay package, but that won’t mean that they’ll stay with you for long if you don’t also offer opportunities to acquire new skills or develop old ones. This doesn’t change with remote workers either.
So, set up employee development plans that are valuable to your employees and benefit your organization as a whole. You can do so by identifying where your employees are lacking or where they can improve. This could be as simple as improving soft skills or time management or even upgrading to advanced technical knowledge.
You can find out your employees’ gaps either by monitoring their performance and behavior or by asking them directly.
You can also use a time-tracker and project management tool for work-at-home employee performance monitoring.
With such a tool, you can look at the number of tasks completed, the time taken for task completion, and the accuracy of the work done. With this data, you can take steps to improve their efficiency.
For remote field employee performance monitoring, you can use a route planner app that comes integrated with GPS tracking.
Such software will help you track their activities in real-time and figure out the total number of stops made, the average time taken per stop, driving behavior, and more to evaluate how efficiently they’re performing.
You can then create an online training plan with a test for the underperformed employees to help them improve and offer promotions as rewards to the top performers. When your remote employees see that you are concerned about their development, they’ll be more motivated and engaged and they’ll put in more effort which would ultimately benefit your company.
Trust Your Remote Workers
You should have the utmost trust and confidence in your remote workers. Believe that they’ll do the right thing.
You might find this strategy sometimes doesn’t work out and you may get concerned or even frustrated to lose constant visibility over your workers. But, don’t respond by micromanaging. Hovering above your employees’ heads all the time will only distract them and lower their productivity.
Micromanaging also robs your team members of flexibility and gives rise to conflicts. It furthermore disengages workers, meaning they will care less.
The right way to go about it would be to not fixate on perceived performance problems. Instead, see if you can actually get them interested in the work. If they like what they do, they’ll be able to perform better.
Send Surprise Gifts
Sending gifts and memorabilia to your remote workers can make them more connected and bring them closer to your company. From notepads and diaries to coffee mugs, there are many kinds of gift items that you can send.
But, the best gift that you can give your remote workers is probably a t-shirt or two with the company name or logo.
For remote workers, getting a t-shirt with the company name or logo is a big deal. It is exciting and cool to work for a company that has such brand awareness. To go one step further, you can offer t-shirts and goodies for their spouses and kids. Next thing you know, an employee’s family may post a picture or video on social media, wearing the t-shirts with your company name or logo.
This will create some extra publicity for your company. Most importantly, your employees will feel good and be devoted to your company.
So, how do you manage your remote workforce?
Rahul Dasgupta is part of the product marketing team at Route4Me
, a worldwide logistics technology company, with a 100% remote company structure that was an early adopter of the trusting leadership style. He is an experienced content marketing professional with a background in computer science.
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