Remote work has been on the rise in the U.S. even before the outbreak of COVID-19. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of American workers whose jobs allow for telecommute work increased by 173%, according to an analysis by Global Workplace Analytics.
Now with many businesses needing to transition employees to remote work seemingly overnight, companies are scrambling to make this new reality work. Some experts believe that this current moment may have a lasting effect on how businesses work, resulting in 25 to 30% of the workforce continuing to work from home several days a week within the next two years.
Read on for some suggestions to help your team make this transition, particularly for your colleagues who thrive in face-to-face environments and might struggle working remotely.
The struggle for many workers during periods of remote work is the lack of the same type of social interaction that they would find in a physical office.
If you have colleagues who work best with a lot of in-person contact, try to provide higher levels of virtual engagement during this time. Plan extra video conference calls to check in, and maybe even set up separate online “social hours” for office chitchat, as well. This extra effort helps staff members feel connected to their everyday office routine, plus connects them with the colleague, resources, and information they need to do their jobs effectively.
Check in with your staff both as a group and one-on-one. Focus on the challenges of working from home, as well as their equipment and technology needs. There will be anxieties about deadlines, workflow, projects, and more, so make sure to ask each person individually about their concerns, their preferred work style, and their emotional needs. This individual approach can go a long way in getting the best performance from your staff during this turbulent time.
Don’t fall for the remote working myths.
Too many managers fall prey to the idea that productivity will decrease when employees work from home. Luckily, efficiency can be fostered remotely with a little bit of effort.
As a manager, you won’t be able to enforce increased productivity by keeping a watchful eye on every employee all the time. Instead, make sure that each staff member has been matched to the right task for their strengths and that they have clear expectations, deadlines, and goals. Ensure each team member knows exactly how they are contributing, what standards they need to meet, and when their work is due.
Establish new, remote routines.
Creating new routines that better match remote needs benefits both managers and staff, and can help maintain and build team cohesion. While you may have had a weekly check-in meeting while working in the office, perhaps that check-in can be managed remotely over Slack or another tool. Alternatively, maybe a daily 5-minute morning meeting followed by a 5-minute afternoon check-in is more effective. Whatever the process you create, lead by example, so your employees see that you’re utilizing the new routine, also.
Above all, be flexible. Working remotely is an adjustment for most people. Recognize that there will be some growing pains as everyone figures out this new reality. With open lines of communication and clear expectations, you and your team can learn from this experience and come out stronger and more efficient in the end.