2020 has become the year of change and offers the work force a new workplace, our home. Currently we have more than 40% of our workforce required to work remotely or from home in order for us to manage the spread of Covid 19. This is a 30% increase from 2019 and requires businesses to adapt, not only the way they deal with clients but more importantly how to manage virtual staff.
Managers jobs have always been focused on staff performance, supporting individuals growth and ensuring the visions of the business objectives are maintained. Traditional managers were hands on leaders who would step in and assist staff when needed but how can we expect that when the workforce is no longer in front of us?
The most common challenges of managing staff remotely are lack of face to face supervision, length of time it takes to receive information when sharing data with peers through email and the isolation employees feel from being alone daily.
These factors can cause some of our best employees to become less engaged and lower a department's morale. Multiple studies indicate that morale and productivity are linked so the impact of this to a business is detrimental to its success.
Managers can support their new type of staff in many ways to make this workplace as connected and productive as the previous work setting.
Create a structure
Routine is important, especially as a manager, your staff needs you to establish a structure for tracking progress, providing one on one coaching or daily calls and have a set time to bring up questions or concerns without interruptions. The key to keeping staff engaged is to be consistent with your message and show them undivided attention, even if it's only 30 minutes a day. Let your staff know what your day looks like and understand their work day so you can support each other during busy periods and reach out to each other when you have a free moment.
Multiple lines of communication
Email is only 1 form of communication and probably the least effective when a team is remote. We all know about the inbox and how easy it is to overlook or misread an email especially when working on projects. Your staff needs to know you are readily available and have multiple ways to connect with either you or a peer throughout the day. An open door policy doesn’t make sense in a virtual space but having an instant line of communication will keep the concept relevant to your organization. Technology has made it relatively inexpensive and possible for us to connect with our teams by phone, video conferencing and private instant message groups. Zoom, Google Meet and Wassap, are great ways to always stay unified and work as a team. Communication will be the best way to combat the feeling of isolation when working from home.
Our workplace was a 2nd home, a place where we could take a break from our everyday household routines. The Coronavirus has not only affected many of us professionally but also socially. Humans need social interaction for our physical and mental health to be sustained so remember to allow time for this in your employees day. The easiest way to establish social interaction is leaving time in your meetings to discuss non-work related items like family, current events and even weather as long as it’s a break from work. Many workplaces offer coffee and snacks or donuts, so if it’s a special event send out personal care packages or use a delivery service and have a virtual party. Your social committee budget can get creative and still provide a great time for staff even at home.
Most managers are great at being able to read their employees' social ques and can tell when something is going on. The global pandemic has created a lot of negative news, fear and anxiety throughout the world so it only makes sense our staff would feel these emotions too. Managing a remote workforce is new to you and working remotely is new to your employee. Acknowledge the stress that they could be feeling and empathize. Virtual learning is different so be patient as some will love it and others will need additional support.
During sudden change or crisis situations, employees will look for how the manager reacts and act accordingly. Encourage your team to reach their goals and not allow the new workspace to make them less effective in their job. You as a leader must stay focused and remain positive and your cohorts will adapt with you.