Updated: Dec 6, 2021
The rush to transition to remote work at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 upended the ways we work — perhaps forever. Yet even before the emergence of COVID-19, one-fourth of the U.S. workforce already worked from home at least part of the time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
But the pandemic has changed how many businesses operate. The pivot to remote work addresses health concerns of employers and employees during the pandemic. Yet it has also highlighted quality-of-life issues, with many employees reporting they are happier working remotely.
For companies who can and desire to continue remote work, whether all or some of the time, the past 18 months have helped fine-tune the ways teams and managers can flourish in the remote workplace.
Boost Midwest has the expertise and experience in transitioning teams to remote work and best practices for maintaining productivity and employee engagement. These are the two elements managers most often cited as challenges in working with remote teams and arise out of these underlying reasons:
Little or no face-to-face supervision. Although research shows otherwise, managers feel employees won’t work as hard or as efficiently away from the physical workplace.
Less access to information. Remote employees often spend time searching for information that used to be at their fingertips. This is true for files and documents and also for getting quick answers from co-workers and managers.
Feelings of isolation. For many employees, working away from their team and workplace makes for a lonely workday. Team members miss out on casual interactions and unscheduled exchanges of information. They may also feel the lack of co-worker support — that we’re-all-in-this-together feeling — critical to engagement and job satisfaction.
Distractions at home. Remote workers may face unexpected distractions, whether from children or other interruptions that just don’t happen in the workplace. Yet, it’s important to remember that workplace distractions also occur, just in different ways.
Boost Midwest has pared down best practices in managing remote teams to these top 10 recommendations. These are simple, quick changes and adjustments that will relieve some of the issues remote team managers and team members often experience.
Schedule a daily check in. Similar to a standup meeting, the daily team check in sets the tone and immediate goals for the team.
Implement a remote work policy. In 2021, working remotely is no longer an edge-of-your-seat response to the COVID-19 crisis. By now, a policy and training should be in place that outlines expectations for remote work. And it’s important to make sure managers apply the policy fairly and consistently across teams and employees.
Focus on communication. Videoconferencing platforms allow for visual cues that an email, telephone call, or teleconferencing, does not. A study detailed in the Harvard Business Review found that face-to-face communication is 34 times more effective than by email. And a pre-pandemic survey of over 300 executives surveyed showed 63% found that videoconferencing significantly improves the quality of communication and 50% said it increases levels of understanding.
Establish expectations and norms. Team managers should be clear and transparent with employees as to precisely what is expected in terms of interaction and collaboration and how that will be accomplished. For new teams, a remote “launch” is a good method for letting team members know the “rules of engagement” from the start.
Hold one-on-one meetings. Employees who regularly meet with their managers are three times more engaged than their peers, a poll from Gallup management consultant firm showed. Studies also show that employees are four times more likely to be disengaged when they don’t meet one-on-one with their supervisors. For remote employees, these meetings carry even more value.
Have a clear shared purpose and goal. To instill purpose among your employees, give team members concrete examples of how their collective efforts will advance larger company goals. Focus team members on what has to be accomplished in order to achieve success, even as concept of operations change, and to discipline their efforts toward those goals.
Provide ways for remote socializing. Remote teams don’t have opportunities for connecting through the social gatherings and casual conversations that an office environment offers. But it’s important that remote employees feel like they’re part of the team. So, before team meetings, try a roundtable where each team member gives a “peek” into their world. Hold virtual pizza parties or other workplace celebrations, with party food delivered to team members’ homes. “Care” packages can also be delivered, for a quick morale boost.
While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experience has shown managers and remote workers that these virtual events help lessen feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging.
Offer encouragement and support. Managers should acknowledge stress, anxieties and concerns of remote workers— just as they should in themselves. The best way is to ask general questions, like “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?”. Listen carefully to the responses, and briefly restate it back to the employee, so he or she knows the concerns are understood.. Then decide on ways that may alleviate them.
Solicit feedback. Managers usually will benefit from hearing from team members how they are performing as a remote workplace team leader. This kind of insight can grow emotional intelligence, instill a growth mindset, and help you better communicate with your team members and executive leadership, so their needs and yours are met as closely as possible.
Emphasize a work-life balance. Unplugging after work may be difficult for remote employees, leading to burnout — and the lower productivity and morale that comes with it. This is where the norms and expectations established for the team come into play. So, lean into these norms and expectations, while encouraging team members to keep to a consistent schedule and step away from work afterwards.
While there’s no magic bullet to guarantee a smooth transition to remote workplace, Boost Midwest has found that implementing these best practices in managing remote team will help achieve productivity, keep employee morale high, and keep your team working as a team.
Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize your project management and operations? Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.