Tips to Help Manage Your Remote Workforce
The world, the country, our state is navigating the first pandemic since 1918. We know that this has required many small businesses to shutter their doors temporarily, some permanently. Hopefully you and your teams continue to be healthy and safe during this time.
Those of you who have transitioned to remote work may be finding it challenging to manage your teams without seeing them in person each day. You may have many non-exempt employees who are unused to working without direct supervision. What can you do to ensure that your employees are feeling supported while also seeing that they have the tools and resources to stay productive?
One best practice is to have a remote work policy that clearly outlines the nature of remote work, company expectations and which positions are eligible for remote work. Defining eligible positions may require an assessment of what positions can be continued during the current shelter-in-place order. The remote work policy is a tool to communicate with employees to have everyone on the same page.
In addition to the remote work policy as a step to providing insight to employees, it is helpful to also develop a clear plan of action and provide it to your employees. How is the company responding to various aspects of the pandemic and a changing economy? Employees will find some reassurance in knowing specifically if and how they may continue with the company even if you have to make difficult decisions about reducing or revising roles as a response.
Let your employees know you are there for them. Whether you are setting expectations or providing updates. To help keep employees engaged, inform them of the steps your company is taking to maintain workflow, what if any adjustments that the company is taking to address the changing business landscape, what special steps are being taken, and most importantly ask them what they need. The point is to be open and transparent in your communication. Be sure to check-in with employees regularly and let them know to reach out to you if they have a need, even if it is to chat for a few minutes. In times of uncertainty, employees need to feel grounded, so they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
It is important to set standards for ongoing communication between employees and among teams. Be sure to schedule meetings using your preferred on-line tool such as Zoom or Google Hangout. Once you have selected the platform, be sure that everyone can use it.
Provide an agenda and someone in charge to facilitate the meeting. This will help keep the attendees focused, the meeting moving forward and will have less likelihood of wasting time by sidetracked conversations. You can include a set amount of time for catch-up conversations about how everyone is doing.
Allow some flexibility with virtual meetings. Working remotely means a loss of personal interactions. For some employees this can be the most stressful and disruptive part of remote work. Allow extra time on virtual meetings and calls for catchup conversations since this will promote a sense of belonging to the team. Short end of week calls that are more social in nature can help employees with a sense of camaraderie and being connected.
In addition, it’s helpful to set up an agreement for meeting etiquette. This would include: come to the meeting prepared, log on 5 minutes early, mute the microphone when not speaking, stay focused on the meeting and not get distracted with email or text messages, don’t talk over another speaker, stay on the subject, have your say in a constructive manner, etc.
One benefit of the technology we have is to be able to see each other. Encourage employees to use videos. Teams work best when they feel connected and seeing their coworkers can foster that connection.
Check what type of equipment each employee needs to successfully complete their duties while working from home. Do they have strong, secure internet connections? Do they need a company laptop or other equipment? Do they have secure access into shared drives? If they are using personal computers or cell phones do, they have sufficient security systems installed? Do they know who to contact for IT support?
Employees working from home will no longer have access to basic office supplies such as printer paper and pens. If you are asking your employees to use personal electronic equipment or replenish such supplies on their own, you are required to reimburse them.
Complete an assessment of job duties to determine what tasks can reasonably be accomplished working from home. Then work with the employee to prioritize tasks and define reasonable deadlines. This is also a good time to get feedback from employees of their concerns about obstacles to being successful while working remotely.
When deciding which tasks an employee can reasonably continue and the corresponding deadlines, consider their new working environment. Is the employee a parent who now has to homeschool children a few hours a day? Are they in a multigenerational household? Are they trying to continue working with multiple roommates whose presence make confidential calls difficult? Unless an employee is accustomed to it, working remotely takes additional effort to stay focused. The shelter-in-place orders have upended the daily schedules of most households.
Whenever possible, allow employees to have some flexibility with their schedules. It’s best to find out what schedule an employee can keep. An employee responding to customer inquiries for work to be completed may be able to respond to such emails after children’s bedtimes.
For employees who may not have access to technology or equipment necessary to work from home, review job duties and department tasks that might be completed without the use of a computer. If you have the budget, consider having employees in this position complete professional development training.
Managing employees always includes providing them with support to be successful. Managing employees during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic means providing a different kind of support. Each company is challenged to find what works best for them. We are here to help.
Karen Mathews Radau, CEO and Sr. Consultant Small Business HR Services®, Chapter 113
Karen Mathews Radau has been in business for 12 years doing organizational effectiveness, career coaching and human resources. She is passionate about helping her clients be successful, manage their risk as an employer and develop a culture of compliance.
Karen is certified as an HR Professional, has an M.A. in Organizational Psychology from JFKU and a B.S. in Business Management from UOP. She has additional training and certifications, most notably as a Certified Coach and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. See more at www.Smallbizhrservices.com.