It has been more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic started and most people have already adapted to the new ways of work, such as remote work and hybrid work arrangement.
These measures were initially introduced to help combat and contain the spread of the coronavirus. Over time, it has become increasingly normal and expected to be able to work from home, especially for office workers.
Research by PwC has indicated this is likely to be an 'enduring shift' in how businesses function. 78% of respondents to the company's CEO Panel Survey said they expect remote collaboration to continue even after conditions return to normal after the pandemic. Low-density workplaces (61%) and the gig economy (54%) were also identified as lasting trends.
However, some companies still struggle to manage their remote employees.
Technology plays a very critical role in the success of the management of your remote workforce. But that’s not all the elements that matter. Here are 8 common mistakes you can avoid easily to manage your remote workforce more effectively.
1. failing to support work-life balance
Work-life balance is one of the most unmet expectations of employees which employers should give a higher priority on. A poor work-life balance can lead to employees burning out and having higher levels of job dissatisfaction.
We have observed that some employers are asking all their employees to return to the office space as soon as the COVID-19 workplace measurements were lifted. There are also no clearly communicated reasons about why they should return to the office. As a result, many employees don’t see the point of heading back to the office only to find themselves doing the same thing at home.
According to experts at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the pandemic is likely to have long-term consequences for mental health. Introducing targeted measures to help staff maintain a good work-life balance could prove vital to people's mental well-being, particularly during times of high stress and anxiety. Work-life balance needs to be a priority for employers in the post-COVID era.
Working from home can help remote employees improve their balance, as it gives them back the time they spent commuting or accidentally working long hours because of blurring boundaries between their work and home lives.
Instead of making the office space the distinction between work and personal life, teach and support your employees other ways of improving their work-life balance. For example, you can offer work-from-home allowances to encourage employees to set up a work desk at home or help with expensive broadband and utility bills.
As managers, you can also advise your employees to customise their notifications on their phones so that they are not receiving work messages after work. The instant access to communication tools provided by smartphones can make people feel like they're 'always on' and constantly having to think about their jobs, which can lead to burnout easily.
2. not creating a daily routine
Making the transition to remote working will not be easy for those with poor self-control or time management. Managers can take the lead to devise a clear working schedule or structure to help their employees manage their daily routines easily.
Set up recurring video meetings throughout the week so that your team members have opportunities to catch up with each other on the projects that they are working on, provide progress updates and share key information.
You might also want to set up video meetings with employees outside of your immediate team to collaborate on new projects and bounce ideas off each other. This is very critical to corporate staff, as business partnering skills are very instrumental in the success of new projects.
The most successful remote workers are able to set clear boundaries between their work and home lives, and responsible employers should be ready to help their employees do this.
3. communication breakdowns
When people are working in the office, frequent contact and communication between colleagues happens naturally. Co-workers are more likely to talk to each other and discuss what's on their minds, which helps with relieving stress and sharing ideas that will help people do their jobs more effectively.
However, remote working makes it difficult for such spontaneous interactions to happen. Without regular interactions, staff may feel isolated, which may negatively affect their work motivation and connection to the business. For example, team members may not know what other colleagues are doing and end up duplicating the work or overlooking deadlines.
This is why it’s important for everyone to keep communication channels open when working remotely. To successfully deliver on a project, you’ll need everyone involved in the project to be in frequent contact with each other to ensure team alignment. Always check in with your remote team and ensure that everyone understands their task expectations.
Technology is a particularly useful tool to connect people together. Use video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meets to keep in touch with your team, no matter where they are working from. Virtual meetings don’t always have to be about work either. You can use them for team building activities to foster deeper relationships among team members and cultivate a healthy company culture.
You can also use project management tools to create work plans and timetables that can be accessible to everyone on the team. Platforms like Asana, Trello, Basecamp and Liquid Planner can prove particularly useful for tasks like creating to-do lists, prioritising your most important activities and allocating jobs to individuals within your remote team. As a manager, you can also immediately see whether the work has been delegated equally across the team and step in to support if someone has too much on their plates.
4. assuming low-contact employees don't need support
All employees have different styles of working. Some workers thrive on social interaction and collaboration, and are more likely to take the initiative to contact their co-workers and managers to stay productive at work. On the other hand, there are some workers who are more introverted and would rather not interact with others unless absolutely necessary.
Managers need to be careful not to assume that employees are perfectly getting on with their jobs just because they're not expressing any concerns. In fact, it might be the quietest and most reserved workers who need the most attention from their managers, since they're the least likely to come forward of their own accord.
Even the smallest actions and gestures - like calling to check in with someone they haven't spoken to for a couple of days - can be enough to make that employee feel supported. You could even offer your help or some guidance on the projects that they are working on. It also reduces the risk of seemingly minor issues going unaddressed and potentially turning into serious problems.
Furthermore, being proactive in this way shows your commitment to looking after your workforce, which is good for your company culture and employer brand.
5. lack of tech support
Failing to provide the tech support your employees need to get their work started is one mistake you should not make. Technology is crucial in remote working as it has a direct effect on your workforce productivity.
The top priority for all companies across all industries is digitalisation. This means that your employees should have adequate technical support they need to do their jobs effectively.
As an employer, you need to consider both hardware and software support, and what are the processes you should put in place to provide ongoing tech support and solutions:
- How quickly can your IT team provide replacement laptops to employees who are working from home?
- Is there real-time technical support for workers who are facing issues with the software when they are working remotely?
- Is there enough training to help employees learn how to use digital solutions?
6. overlooking security
When employees are working remotely, it means that company information and data are being accessed from different channels. To prevent data leak and unsolicited hacks, it's important to create a good security system to increase protection and keep your sensitive information and assets safe.
Company-issued devices, such as laptops and phones, should be kept secure. This means setting up a dedicated virtual private network and updating antivirus software regularly, among other safety measures that uses encryption and authentication tools.
Employees should also be informed of best practices where security is concerned, such as:
- Finding a quiet place for calls that might include sensitive information, or using headphones for privacy
- Not printing out data that needs to be kept secure
- Locking their laptop when not in use
While it's vital to make sure you're keeping in touch with your team and having regular check-ins, it's also important that you don't go to the other extreme and become a micromanager.
As a manager, you need to be able to trust your employees to do their jobs and stay productive without you peering over their shoulders.
Research has suggested that being away from the workplace can actually help people be better at their jobs, with 77% of remote workers saying they're more productive when working from home and 76% choosing to avoid the office when they need to focus on a project.
Managers should be looking for the right balance between supervising their remote workforce and giving people a level of freedom and control over their jobs.
8. not setting expectations for your employees
People who are new to remote working should have a clear idea of how they will go about fulfilling their responsibilities from home (or wherever they're based) and the level of productivity they should be aiming for.
Employees who work remotely have more freedom and managers may not always know what they are up to. Instead of being process-driven where you monitor the employees activities closely every step of the way, it’s better for managers to be outcome-based. Focussing on the results and outputs gives employees more flexibility on how they want to work on the tasks, as long as they are able to meet the quality and deadlines. The shortcuts that they discover may also be helpful to the team as everyone can learn how to complete the tasks within a shorter time frame.
It’s important to engage with employees to set clear deadlines and goals, so that they can continue to work productively. It's in situations like these that your managerial skills come to the fore.
download guide: how to effectively manage a remote workforce
Randstad has produced a miniguide looking at exactly this subject, which highlights practical steps and measures you can take to support your remote workers and help them achieve the best results.
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