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Managing a Remote Workforce

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In light of COVID-19, many companies have unexpectedly asked a large cohort of their employees to work from home. Without time to prepare for this, leaders, whose teams normally share an office and who now have been thrown into working from home, have been presented with a host of new challenges. How can one lead effectively when employees are greeting each other with instant messages than face to face interactions? When meetings are held via Microsoft Teams rather than in-person? Read on for our advice for managing a remote workforce.

 

Clarity of goals, expectations, guidelines  


First and foremost, leaders need to prioritise the setting of clear boundaries and guidelines. At its most basic this involves setting clear expectations for work hours, availability, communication methods, meetings, key projects and deadlines, and responding to emails.  For example, “We use video conferencing for our daily check-in meetings, but we use instant messenger/chat when something is urgent”. 

  

After this you need to convey what is success. Don’t worry so much about what is being done, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting goals, great! If not, then we need to look further into what is being done. Everyone has a different idea of what doing something “quickly” or “well” means. Whether showing examples of what you expect to be done, an overview of how you schedule your day etc. make sure you set clear expectations from those you work with.

  

And finally, use this time as an opportunity to re-clarify the basics in order to ensure everyone understands their role and how each person contributes to team objectives. Clarifying and re-clarifying goals will help people understand what is expected of them. 

  

 


Over communicate

  
While communication is always essential for leaders, it becomes even more essential when your team is working remotely. A challenge experienced by many when transitioning from in-office work to remote work is the feeling of disconnection and isolation which hinders an employee’s engagement and productivity. Given the current environment and people’s anxiety surrounding COVID-19, this feeling of disconnect and loneliness is probably heightened. Therefore, it is important that you over-communicate with your employees. Your staff members are probably used to talking to you every day so make sure you regularly check-in. 

  

This could be a daily series of one-on-one video calls if your employees work more independently of each other or a team video call if their work is collaborative, or a mix of both. The important aspect is that these calls are a regular feature and that employees know that they have an opportunity to discuss any concerns or ask questions. 

  

Embrace video conferencing and have regular team meetings and continue to foster team morale by taking the time at the start of each meeting for general chat such as asking about people’s weekends, how they are feeling etc.  

  

  


Trust


Being thrust into a remote working environment, as a manger it can be tempting to micromanage. However, doing so will only make your employees feel like you don’t trust them and impact their engagement and productivity. After you have set clear expectations, you must have faith in the employee that they will get the job done. Being trusted to get things done is a big motivator for people. 

Finally, as it’s been an abrupt shift to remote work for many, it is important for managers to acknowledge that this transition might be difficult for employees. Listen to your employees’ anxieties and concerns and offer them encouragement and support.

 

 

Posted by Julia Purcell on 25 April 2020

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