Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies requested that their employees work remotely. This sudden and unexpected change left many employees as well as their managers separated from each other for the very first time.
It is preferable that work from home and remote work policies are clearly established in advance. If your company did not have established policies for this type of situation and did not have enough time to provide training for employees, there are many steps that can help your unexpected transition to work remotely with ease.
In this blog, we will explore how managers can overcome challenges that come with managing remote teams. How employees can make the most out of working from home and overcome challenges that come with it can be explored in our previous blog post: Working from home.
Challenges of remote work
Managers have to understand factors that can make remote work for employees demanding. Some employees that usually perform highly may experience declines in performance when they just start working remotely, especially when training and preparation are absent. Challenges that are most common in remote work are:
- Lack of supervision
The lack of direct interaction often concerns both managers and employees. Managers often worry that employees will not be able to work as efficiently as they did in the office. Employees will worry that the access to support and communication they took for granted will be significantly reduced. Employees feel that their managers might not be supportive in helping them get their work done.
- Lack of information
New remote workers will have to spend more time and put more effort into getting information from coworkers. If your office mate is having a tough day, an email from them written under stress you might take offense or start to think poorly of your coworker's professionalism.
Feeling isolated is the most common complaint from employees working remotely. Employees often miss the office setting and everything that comes with it: interacting with coworkers, chatting, having a coffee break, etc. Over a longer period of time, employees can lose connection to their organization and that can cause them to want to quit their job.
Employees might often find themselves distracted from their work-related tasks, either by their household members, social media, or household chores they might have to be done since they are at home. How employees can make the most out of working from home and overcome challenges that come with it can be explored in our previous blog post: Working from home. In this blog post, we explain how employees can create a dedicated workstation for themselves, create a working environment, and tracking their work.
What managers can do to help their remote Employees
- Perform daily check-ins
Remote team managers should establish a daily call with their employees. These daily calls can be an ono one session if employees work independently from each other. If employees collaborate, a team call should be established. The daily check-in calls need to be regular and the employees have to be able to consult with the manager, express their concerns, and ask work-related questions.
- Provide several communication options
Email alone will not be enough, it is often very formal and „slow“. When we say small we want to say that it might take a longer time to write, for the recipient to notice an email and write a response. Remote workers will benefit greatly from having a variety of options that will help them communicate with their coworkers. Sometimes a piece of quick information the employee might need can be provided with software that allows for instant messaging. (Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) they can also be used for simpler and less formal conversations. A video call will also be beneficial to employees, it will provide visual cues that will make the participants feel as they are conversing face to face. Video calls can also be used for sensitive conversations or resolving tasks that are complex.
- Provide remote social interaction
A manager should structure a way that will enable employees to interact, have informal conversations about topics that are not work-related. This will benefit all remote workers and especially those who have recently been transitioned out of the office. An easy way to enable remote workers to have some social interaction is to leave some room at the beginning of a daily team call to let them catch up. Let them talk about their weekend, hobbies, or whatever they might feel comfortable talking about.
- Provide emotional support
Managers have to acknowledge the stress an employee might be under. Their concerns have to be heard. If a remote worker is struggling with work and is not communicating his or her stress and anxiety, they should be asked „How are you doing“. A simple question like „How is remote work going for you?“ can shed light on information that the manager might not otherwise hear. Managers should acknowledge stress and anxiety an employee might be going through and also provide words of support that will help the employees take up new challenges.