Original Article By Jody Ordioni, Achieve Engagement
In lieu of the crisis that has emerged due to COVID-19, companies around the globe have asked their employees to work remotely. This has led to many employees working from home. Moreover, it has created a unique situation for the managers who now have to manage their teams remotely. Though establishing clear remote-work policies is preferred, no one can navigate a new field in the time of a global crisis. Fortunately, there are certain steps that managers can take to ensure a steady level of productivity and engagement even in the time of this crisis.
This concern has been expressed by both employees and employers. A majority of managers believe that remote work will lead to a drop in productivity levels and the performance of the individual. On the other hand, employees feel that their access to the managers is reduced during remote work. It leads them to believe that managers do not care about the needs of remote workers.
One of the most unpredictable and unforeseen parts of working remotely is that seemingly simple questions can take a lot of time to be answered by co-workers. The delay in communication is not strictly restricted to work-related tasks but can also extend to interpersonal communication between employees. Our research has found that this lack of knowledge due to disrupted communication can propagate distrust amongst co-workers during situations of distress.
Loneliness is the most significant problem that many employees are facing, and managers find it hard to find a solution to this problem, especially because self-isolation is the need of the hour. The informal social interaction of the office is being missed. Prolonged isolation can reduce the feeling of ‘belongingness’ to the company for even the best of employees.
Employers should ensure that employees have access to adequate childcare and a dedicated workspace before piling work onto them. In a sudden crisis, when many companies are failing to come up with any working plan, it is unfair to expect optimum productivity from employees. Sub-optimal work settings and distraction due to their child’s needs are some problems that managers should be sympathetic towards. Try to accommodate your employees’ problems and work towards a solution together.
Many employers establish a system of calling their remote employees daily. This can be in the form of a one-on-one call or even a team call. The only requirement is to call regularly to establish a schedule and provide remote workers with the platform to express their concerns and needs.
Take advantage of the progress of technology and provide your remote workers with options other than email if they wish to contact you. Many remote employees make use of video calling apps to get visual cues that are otherwise missing from electronic communication. There is an abundance of such apps in the market, so ensure that this option is available during this period.
Remote working can be efficient and productive too if managers know how to establish the rules of engagement clearly. Expectations for parameters such as frequency and timing of communication has to be conveyed clearly. In addition to video conferencing, there should also be an established method of communication for urgent matters. Also, ensure that regular communication is taking place between other members of the team.
An important task for any manager during this time is to creatively structure social interaction for employees as they work remotely. The easiest way to make time for interaction is to allow employees to make small talk at the beginning of the meeting. Another way can be to order pizzas for everyone at the time of the videoconference and enjoy them together. While these ideas might sound artificial or cliched, many managers have reported that they are useful in reducing the loneliness of isolation and helps in keeping employees engaged with the company and their jobs.
It is imperative to listen to the anxieties and stress of the employees, especially in times of rapid change. If a new remote employee is visibly struggling but is unable to articulate their problem, do not hesitate to ask them how they’re coping with everything.
Employees look up to their managers in moments of crisis and base their responses on the precedence set by the managers. Effective leaders acknowledge the feelings of their employees while also driving the team forward. It is important to show confidence in your teams as everyone faces this new challenge together.