Long gone are the days when we could randomly walk to our colleagues and rant about working late or being summoned by the boss for work updates.
In 2020, the global pandemic changed our style of working forever. Remote work was no longer an option or a privilege anymore; it was the norm when WHO announced COVID-19 reached pandemic status.
Our world dramatically and swiftly changed to work from home, leaving several companies scrambling to adapt and continue.
Working from home is no longer a trend; it’s a new reality.
Some of us did get a chance to be in the offices for a while; however, little did we know that the second wave was going to us hard this time.
Working remotely is not just a matter of providing employees with a new video communication platform; it is more about sustaining and maintaining a business culture.
The second wave (or the tsunami, as we like to call it) of COVID-19 made every one of us experience the paradigm shift to working remotely again.
The pandemic has completely redefined the way teams communicate and work.
Even before COVID lockdowns, remote work had grown by 140% since 2005, which is nearly ten times faster than the rest of the workforce.
Some facts –
- Pre-COVID, over 4.3 million employees were already working remotely at least half the time.
- Research has suggested that 42% of remote workers have plans to work from home more often over the next five years than they’re doing now.
- 51% of on-site employees say that they want to work remotely, with 43% of employers saying that they planned on offering more opportunities for remote work over the next few years.
- Working from home was found to increase productivity by 13%!
The statistics mentioned above show that working remotely will be the new norm. It’s just a matter of time!
The pandemic has revolutionized the workplace and the way we work; teams are changing the way we communicate and work.
While working from home has a few benefits, like saving money and time on the commute, better productivity, and encouraging better work-life balance, it has some downsides as well.
Common Challenges of Remote Work
Managers need to know and understand the factors that make remote employees demanding.
Else, high-performing employees experience a decline in productivity, job performance, and productivity when they begin working from home, especially when there is no training and preparation.
Some challenges of work from home are –
Lack of face-to-face supervision
Both employees and employers express concerns about how there is a lack of face-to-face interaction.
Managers worry that their employees will not work as efficiently or as hard. On the other hand, employees struggle with less access to managerial support and communication.
In some cases, employees feel that their remote managers are out of touch with their needs and are neither helpful nor supportive in getting their work done.
Lack of access to information
Remote workers are often taken by surprise by the added time and effort required to locate information from co-workers.
This phenomenon often extends beyond task-related work into interpersonal challenges that emerge amongst remote employees.
Studies have shown that a lack of ‘shared knowledge’ among employees translates to a lower willingness to give employees the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations.
Loneliness is one of the most prevalent criticisms of remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office.
It is often believed that extroverts may experience isolation in the short run when they do not have opportunities to connect with their colleagues in remote work environments.
Over a long time, isolation can cause any employee, introverts, or extroverts to feel less ‘belonging’ to their organization and can even result in them with increased intention to leave the organization.
Distractions at home
It is often recommended that employees have a dedicated workspace and adequate child care facilities before they start working remotely.
However, it is not always possible to do so! We often find ourselves working sitting on a sofa or living room floor.
In case of a sudden transition to virtual work, having a dedicated workspace is not at all possible, plus the unexpected home responsibilities.
Even in normal circumstances, home and family demands will impinge on remote work; managers should expect these distractions to be greater during the work-from-home transition.
Benefits of Working Remotely
The rise of work from home is unavoidable, and employees must be taught to make the best of the opportunities presented to them.
Allowing work from home does not benefit only employees but makes a huge impact on managers, employers, and the organization as a whole.
Research shows that more remote employees are putting in forty hours per week because they are enjoying their work compared to the on-site employees.
One of the primary reasons employees favor work from home is that they are reaping the benefits of zero commutes, and they have the flexibility to craft their own schedules.
Not only do remote employees are enjoying their work, but they are also willing to put in extra hours as a result.
90% of employees have reported that their family and personal lives have improved, and 85% of the employees claim that their stress levels have been reduced significantly.
One of the studies revealed that remote work provides a tangible boost to employee productivity.
Remote work is more than just the advancement of technology; it is the way of work that has the potential to help improve the way employees work, manage employees, and lead an organization.
Some of the benefits of working remotely are –
- Ability to have a flexible schedule
- Flexibility to work from anywhere
- Not having to commute
- Ability to spend time with friends and family
To lead a remote team effectively, managers and employers learn (over time) that they need to loosen their reins a bit while navigating ways to continue teaching accountability to the employees.
Without the inability to continuously monitor employees in the office, managers and employers may find success by focusing on what gets done and whether it meets well-defined quality standards.
For effective team management, managers must become familiar with telecommuting best practices and expect a certain trial and error amount.
Leading a remote team:
Understanding common teleworking challenges
Three primary challenges that managers and leaders encounter when managing a remote team –
– Lack of face time with colleagues and managers
Employees are conditioned to pick up on non-verbal cues through routine interactions with colleagues and managers.
The absence of in-person communication can be strongly felt by remote employees – more so during the times of crisis such as these.
– Communicate breakdowns and bottlenecks
When working remotely, it is impossible to peek over our colleagues’ cubicles or slip down the hall to see if a manager or colleague could answer a quick doubt.
At times, digital messages may go unnoticed, and subtlety and nuances found in interpersonal interactions can be lost in hasty replies between colleagues.
Managers can help address these issues by modeling efficient communication procedures.
– Surrounding distractions
Whether your family members accidentally spilled sugar on your laptop or a kid in your home gave a mighty shout from the living room during a conference call, distractions are never-ending when working remotely.
Assuming such incidents are not routine, employees need to be patient – especially when remote work is a temporary solution to the short-term event or crisis.
Set clear remote work productivity standards
Employers and leaders must set a company-wide policy that all calls and emails must be answered by the end of the day, or everyone should be available for calls and meetings for a set period of time.
Individual standards must be documented and analyzed informally.
Though setting productivity standards might seem like extra effort for managers; however, it may help to spot trends that are necessary to be addressed.
Identify and provide the right tools
One of the most important aspects of managing remote employees is to make sure that all necessary tools are available as required.
Leaders must make sure to know that remote employees need access to documents and things as by the in-office employees.
For most remote employees, almost all the work can be done with a computer, internet access, a phone, and a headset.
When there is a sudden shift to remote work may reveal unanticipated shortcomings to a seemingly workable remote plan.
Managers and leaders must ensure that their employees have the right tools to be as productive and efficient.
Set aside specific days, times, and methods for team interaction
Workplace interactions foster teamwork and collegiality.
When working remotely, it takes a little extra effort to recreate such communication. And when there is a mix of in-office and remote employees, wise managers seek such opportunities where they can include everyone in team activities and discussions as and whenever possible.
To monitor progress and foster a sense of belongingness, it is helpful to set a definite time for online group interactions.
Even brief daily check-ins or staff meetings help the managers and leaders to assess situations and identify roadblocks.
Managers must make sure that everyone should share a weekly email at least and share what they are working on, noting any upcoming concerns and deadlines.
Follow up with remote employees regularly
The most effective one-on-one class shouldn’t be just about monitoring productivity; it can be a powerful tool to keep employees motivated and engaged.
Ideally, managers should make sure to schedule one-on-one calls to help determine if the employees are doing well, or if there are any bottlenecks, or they could discuss plans for employee’s professional development.
Depending on the nature of the job, more or less routine interaction may be required to keep in touch with employees.
Create a video or tip sheet with other remote employees’ suggestions
Managers should make sure to interact and take tips from those who have traveled the road of remote work before; they may have some useful advice to share as to what software is most helpful or what’s needed to set up a home office.
Share all the insights via PDFs, short videos, or informal QnA video calls.
MANAGE A REMOTE TEAM EFFECTIVELY
During times of crisis and global pandemic, here are some tips for managing your remote team effectively.
- Give employees a sense of belonging.
Research shows that one factor that separates successful businesses from others is those that give their employees a sense of belonging.
- Define goals for remote employees
Studies reveal that 39% of employees working remotely complete their tasks than those who work from fixed workplaces.
In order to have a successful workforce, employers must set clear and measurable goals for their employees.
- Improve overall internal communications strategy
When overall internal communication strategies are not successful, you will face difficulties in engaging employees.
Managers and employers should make more efforts to prioritize employee relations and engagement efforts.
- Check in frequently and be proactive.
Remote employees often feel isolated and disconnected; leaders and managers should make efforts to make themselves available.
Make sure to check in with employees frequently and help them overcome challenges that they might face with remote work.
- Make collaboration more efficient.
One of the significant factors of greater productivity is team collaboration. Thus, many employers try to improve the ways their remote employees work together.
- Put relevant information at their fingertips.
Managers and leaders should make sure that their employees are not spending hours on finding relevant information. Rather, information should find them.
- Make collaboration and communication fun.
To keep employees motivated and engaged, make sure to add some fun elements to it. Use your communication software to share fun company moments.
This is a great approach to engage employees and lets the team share company culture that remote employees cannot experience otherwise.
- Empower remote employees
Employers must empower their employees to make their own decisions, communicate, and implement new ideas.
Research shows that employees who feel a low level of empowerment are rated with engagement at the 24th percentile. And those who experience high levels of empowerment were at the 79th percentile of engagement.
- Enable and encourage knowledge sharing
Knowledge sharing is beneficial for both – company and its employee development.
For remote employees, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing is extremely important as they might have fewer opportunities for in-person knowledge sharing or social learning.
ARE REMOTE EMPLOYEES ENGAGED?
The ongoing remote work trend made everyone rethink how employee experience is looking like, and managers are continuously finding ways to adapt several elements of our in-person culture into virtual experiences.
With the pandemic at its worst right now(hopefully), organizations have no choice left but to embrace the lifestyle of working remotely.
Besides dealing with operational issues, HR professionals and managers are struggling with creative employee engagement ideas while also creating COVID-19 related policies.
During these difficult times, it is more important than ever to work on raising employee morale, and businesses with little or no experience had faced difficulties in engaging with their employees.
Employee engagement is complicated as it is, and when it comes to engaging remote employees, managers often find themselves lost and out of touch with the process.
With the right tips, we believe your organization could master the art of engaging their remote employees.
- Give your remote workers a real voice in the organization.
No matter where the employees are, they wish to be heard. Employees who are able to express their feelings are motivated to contribute to their company’s success.
Research reveals that the employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered and perform to the best of their abilities.
- Show remote employees they’re appreciated
Practicing employee recognition is one of the most critical aspects of employee engagement. Showing appreciation constantly is the key to a high-performing and confident workforce.
Both monetary and social recognition are effective ways to combat negative feelings. Studies reveal that recognition leads to a 55% increase in employee engagement.
- Keep remote employees connected with tools for collaboration and communication.
Working remotely has the potential to make employees more lonely and disconnected. To make sure that doesn’t happen, managers must establish frequent and structured communication between employees and amongst managers.
Once a business has settled on a good meeting platform, establish tools to facilitate communication and collaboration.
Use tools that will make the virtual work environment more collaborative and the ones that keep remote workers involved in company discussions and provide them with as much responsibility as in-office employees.
- Create remote work policies
To keep remote employees on track, create remote work policies that set expectations and add structure to employees’ days.
These work policies will provide a tangible connection to the business and show that they have the same privileges and responsibilities as any other employee.
Make sure that the work policies include remote communication guidelines, what time everyone should be available for group meetings, and what kind of behavior employees should expect when they meet customers virtually.
- Support Mental Wellness
Working from home comes with its own set of mental wellness risk factors that managers and employers tend to overlook.
Workplace stress can drive voluntary turnover and adversely affect employee productivity.
Make sure to promote physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing to help fight burnout and keep the remote employees happy.
To reduce everyday burnout, promote healthy habits like getting enough sleep and eating nourishing foods.
Promoting mindfulness and self-awareness can help employees be in touch with their emotions and act thoughtfully in difficult situations.
Managers and employers merely knowing that they must keep collaboration and communication fun is not enough; here are nine ways to increase employee engagement in fun ways –
- Virtual coffee breaks
You don’t need proximity to matter when it comes to coffee breaks. Ask your team members to brew a cup of coffee and get them all onboard a video conferencing tool, and simply catch up with each other.
- Introduce your colleagues with your in-house employees
Make employees feel a part of the team and have your in-house employees intersect with the colleagues. Ask them to formally introduce themselves and make things interesting by making everyone choose to answer questions from a list of pre-determined questions.
Schedule an online show-and-tell and give your colleagues and employees a platform to share something exciting. This could be anything – an awe-inspiring gadget, a precious item, or a sick skill that they never got a chance to show off.
- Offer online training
Consider buying an online learning management system and upload several training videos for employees. Give them a productive way to keep themselves occupied and finish any company-mandated training.
- Ask for employees’ feedback.
One of the great ways to ensure remote employee engagement is by asking employees to offer their valuable feedback. Make an effort to show your employees that you care, and don’t forget to act on their feedback.
- Invite employees to play multiplayer games
Employee engagement ideas don’t have to be limited to work. Give employees a chance to unwind and relax by playing a multiplayer game. Before suggesting a game yourself, make sure to take into everyone’s consideration; if required, take a voting poll.
- Allocate funds to decorate home office
It is not possible to provide workstations to remote employees. To help them get accustomed to an office environment, dig up some funds to help pay for their home offices.
- Provide freedom in choosing schedules
Employee engagement and employee empowerment go hand in hand. Let your employees choose their own working hours, and you’ll see that employees have built a sense of trust and mutual respect.
- Give Peer-to-Peer Feedback
Feedback doesn’t have to exist compulsorily between employees and employers. Fellow colleagues should applaud each other for their hard work and make suggestions. Employees, at times, consider feedback from their peers to be more honest.
To Sum Up
With proper engagement and management techniques, your remote workforce will be more creative, competent, and capable than ever before.
However, before you go on boosting engagement, take out the time to take in your employees’ recommendations and understand their concerns.
In the end, it is important to have a process for measuring how actively your employees are engaged. Else, there will be no point in implementing these strategies for remote workers.
For those who are new to this phenomenon, they can measure employee engagement with surveys.
Varnika is the one who collate the words to form a sentence. A sentence which can engage you, entertain you and some time educate you.