Remote and hybrid work is becoming more common in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers more flexibility for workers but complicates the management side of things.
Here are some key points for business professionals to keep in mind as they begin to provide permanent work-from-home (WFH) arrangements.
Companies that do all they can to support home-based workers will reap the benefits of increased productivity and retain their best employees.
Use Centralized Platforms
Traditional offices allow for easy collaboration among departments, but remote work separates employees and makes teamwork more difficult. That’s why businesses should use centralized online platforms like Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. They enable workers to collaborate as if they were back in the office.
Here are some other project management software examples that businesses are using to optimize their remote workforce:
These platforms vary greatly in design, but the functions are the same. They have chat rooms and videoconference features for instant communication. Employees can create and share different folders and spaces. They can work on the same projects simultaneously, even if they’re thousands of miles apart.
Each employee must also use the same time-tracking tools to make scheduling and payments easier. Establishing consistency across departments is the only way to replicate the in-person office setting. Using the same resources and platforms is practical and helps workers feel like they’re part of an organized team.
Establish Clear Communication Guidelines
Centralization will make communication much easier, but managers must establish clear guidelines. People working alone are more prone to developing their own personal communication methods. Company policies for emails, video calls and instant messaging need to be specific.
For example, managers must set strict time limits and agendas for video meetings. They need to list the speakers and discussion topics to ensure each one gets its due attention and the session ends on time.
It’s also important to give everyone a chance to speak. Many remote workers have reported feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the lack of communication with peers and superiors. Companies with WFH arrangements can develop unofficial and confusing hierarchies if communication doesn’t stay open.
Managers should make each employee feel heard and appreciated to maintain the hierarchy. They should keep their emails open, provide their cellphone numbers, and hold routine check-ins to catch up and discuss ideas.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
One of the main pitfalls of remote work is a reduced work-life balance. Since the home and office are now the same, employees feel more enveloped in their jobs and have a harder time putting aside their work responsibilities. This problem contributes to the world’s growing mental health crisis.
The first thing managers should do is uphold the 40-hour work week. Don’t pressure employees to work overtime if they don’t need to. Encourage them to take exercise breaks throughout the day so they stay physically healthy. Getting this kind of reassurance from superiors will ease their anxiety and help them disconnect from their jobs at the end of the day.
Managers must also aid their staff members in making their remote workspaces as comfortable as possible. Help them construct an office layout, giving thought to important elements like:
Rethink Onboarding and Training
Introducing and training new remote employees can be a major challenge. It’s difficult to get someone to buy into their new jobs from behind a computer screen. One simple strategy many companies have utilized is the mentor/student relationship. Partner every new hire with an experienced supervisor to guide them through the job’s various growing pains:
- Walk new hires through chapters, checkpoints and measurable goals.
- Encourage them to share their progress with the rest of the team.
- Expose them to new projects as they gain experience.
- Provide frequent constructive feedback.
- Remind them how their job contributes to the company’s efforts.
A mentor establishes much-needed consistency in an unfamiliar WFH setting and helps maintain the office hierarchy. Instead of wondering which superior to report to, new workers can always turn to their advisers. The mentor can also help them set new goals and advance in the company. One close working relationship is all it takes to bring out the best in someone.
Uphold the Company Culture
Although everyone is working in different locations, company culture remains important in a WFH arrangement. Since remote employees can’t participate to the same degree as office employees, managers must find new ways to interact with them:
- Give remote workers shoutouts in emails and video meetings.
- Share success stories of employees in different departments.
- Host virtual happy hours, trivia nights and other fun activities.
- Send birthday cards, holiday greetings and the occasional pick-me-up to make sure they feel appreciated.
- Provide them with new office supplies such as computer monitors and webcams.
It’s also important to invite remote workers to events outside of office hours, such as fundraisers and company picnics. They’re just as crucial to the business’s success as any in-person worker, so they need to get the appropriate recognition.
Track Remote Employee Success
Tracking a remote employee’s success is all about analytics. Physical presence is removed from the equation, so a structured analysis is required to evaluate their productivity. Each department should have several key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine its success. The quality of their work is more important than spending eight hours in front of their screens.
KPIs don’t have to be secrets reserved for upper management. Employees should be aware of their KPIs so they have something to aim for. Establishing a clear sense of purpose is vital for keeping remote workers engaged. People who find genuine meaning in their jobs are more likely to stay with their companies long term, and retaining valuable employees is every team manager’s ultimate goal.
Get Used to the New WFH Structure
Some companies are still hoping the remote work “fad” will fizzle out, but it’s not going anywhere. Business owners and managers need to get used to the new WFH structure. Many people prefer working remotely, and the business world can’t afford to lose them with ongoing labor shortages.
Organizations should do what they can to prepare for the new era and fully embrace this new form of company culture.