The pandemic, along with the millennial generation, shifted the landscape of the workforce at a disproportionately higher rate causing a remote workforce to grow at a high rate. of today’s era has had a profound impact on both employers and employees. Businesses have been navigating various adjustments to cater to their teams and clients, resulting in a range of transformative outcomes. Some have encountered cycles of workforce reductions, while others have embarked on hiring sprees to address evolving demands. While the particulars differ for each enterprise, common threads emerge. Let’s explore a few ways in which the evolving times have reconfigured the workforce dynamics and how your can effectively manage your remote employees.
Embracing Remote Work as the New Standard
For workforces equipped for remote operations, the adoption of remote work has become the norm. This transition is viewed positively by some, as numerous businesses are now experimenting with possibilities they might not have explored otherwise. Countless organizations have utilized this period to understand how their employees perform outside the traditional office setting, along with ways to enhance their remote work protocols.
The shift to a remote work culture has yielded several advantages for numerous companies, including:
- Enhanced Productivity: According to a study by CoSo Cloud, 77% of surveyed employees reported heightened productivity while working remotely. Absent the typical distractions present in a physical office, such as colleagues’ interruptions and communal breaks, employees can focus during their most productive windows without disruptions.
- Reduced Overhead Expenses: Some enterprises have relinquished their physical office spaces, leading to savings on rent and associated costs. This newfound financial flexibility proves valuable, particularly given the ongoing economic uncertainties.
- Time Efficiency: Remote employees save time that would otherwise be spent commuting, grabbing meals, or preparing lunch. The elimination of these routines allows for more efficient time allocation.
- Improved Work-Life Balance: Remote work facilitates better work-life equilibrium, enabling employees to manage work commitments and personal responsibilities more effectively. The adaptable nature of remote work encourages fewer absences for appointments and obligations, allowing individuals to take breaks and unwind.
Remote work has several valuable advantages for both the company and the employee. But there’s no denying that managing a remote team takes a different skill set when it comes to boosting your employees’ morale and productivity. Without the daily face time of an office environment, employees might begin to feel disconnected or isolated from the rest of their team.
Strategies to Manage Remote Employees
As the prevalence and necessity of remote work environments have surged in response to changing times, leadership teams are delving into ways to effectively oversee remote teams. This paradigm shift requires companies to uncover novel strategies for engaging and motivating employees in virtual settings. Solutions span various fronts, such as frequent video conferences, virtual team-building activities, and collaborative tools. The trajectory of remote work trends is expected to evolve as it gains further traction, in tandem with the broader evolution of the workforce. Below are a few strategies to help your company – and your employees – be successful.
1. Find the right fit.
While most employees may need to work remotely at one time or another, not everyone is suited for the role, at least on a regular basis. When you are interviewing, ask questions that uncover the candidate’s work ethic, style, and goals. If the candidate asks for a remote option on the front end, be sure they are up to the task. Investing more time to place a better match on the front end will save you time in the long run.
2. Hold employees accountable for their work, rather than for punching a clock.
Let your employees know what is expected of them and hold them accountable for completing projects up to standard and on time. While coming into the office late doesn’t warrant a performance discussion, missing a deadline does. Provide ongoing coaching and feedback to make sure your employees stay on task.
3. Provide tools for success.
If your company has even one employee who works remotely, providing the technology to do the job is a must. Running into a technical issue while trying to accomplish a task is frustrating for your employee and costly for your business. If you have inconsistent or unreliable systems, upgrade your technology. Investing now will save you money later.
4. Make sure your employees feel connected.
If you have multiple employees who work remotely, you may have already noticed there are few days when everyone is in the office. Schedule team meetings when all your employees are onsite and plan regular face-to-face check-ins with each staff member. Teambuilding outings, lunches, and other group activities go a long way towards building camaraderie. While your employees will appreciate being able to work remotely, there is no substitute for in-person connections.
HR Tips For Employees Working Remotely
Pros of Working Remotely
From flexibility to productivity, there’s a wide range of positive outcomes that can be found from a remote work policy, especially for companies that don’t require a lot of team collaboration or use in-office equipment, including:
- Talent Acquisition—It’s not always easy to find top-rated talent, especially for unique roles. However, many companies are finding that an openness to a more relaxed and flexible work-from-anywhere schedule can attract highly talented and qualified employees who might look elsewhere, especially millennials.
- Higher Focus—While employers might assume that working remotely might cause employees to be less focused, many are finding that removing daily in-office distractions that can occur from shared workspaces to meetings to exhausting commutes can result in improved focus and attention on work tasks. Additionally, new software like Basecamp, Slack, and other project management tools have proven highly successful in keeping a steady flow of collaboration, accountability, and productivity in these situations.
- Innovation—When team members are distributed in various locations that lend to their specific needs and likings, a unique spirit of creativity and innovative thinking can emerge. Corporate office environments that lack bright aesthetics or design can sometimes quench creative ideas from being birthed.
- Employee Retention—Employers who have dedicated and highly qualified employees don’t want to lose them. When life changes occur that can expand the need for flexibility in an employee’s life, they can easily be drawn to other companies that might offer the schedule and environment they need or desire. One way employers are finding they can retain quality talent is through allowing a remote work policy. Not only can it show a dedicated employee that they are trusted, but it will inspire them to want to produce great work results.
Cons of Working Remotely
A remote work policy isn’t right for every company or employee. Whether it’s due to a specific kind of business or a unique type of personality, there can be some disadvantages of having a remote work policy, including:
- Cybersecurity Issues—For employees who work remotely, the use of cloud storage and various technological devices can leave the door open to potential cyber-attacks, especially for companies that harbor sensitive data. Companies that have a need for employees to work remotely should take the necessary steps to protect their teams and company systems from cyber-criminals.
- Lack of Communication—For some companies, daily and ongoing communication between employees is a must. Working remotely can potentially weaken communication, as some employees will have conflicting schedules that might prevent deadlines from being met or information being received or given too late. Additionally, there can be several advantages to engaging with team members face-to-face, including being able to read or gauge certain behaviors and reactions. Certain personality types also require people interaction to be productive.
- Loss of Collaboration—For some employers, collaboration is not only beneficial; it’s a must. When team members are distributed across various locations, it can be easy to lose the collaborative spirit that exists when everyone is gathered in the same space. Interaction is also very beneficial to an organization’s success and culture, so having team members in the same location can be helpful for building motivation and synergy between workers.
- Potential Burnout—For some employees who work remotely, there can often be a mindset in place that involves never unplugging from work. A flexible, work-from-home scenario can make some employees feel they are always being watched, causing them to constantly check for emails and texts, as well as working during hours that should be dedicated to family or self-care. Working in an office environment can create a healthy work-home balance, as employees must regularly arrive and depart.
Reassessing Existing Roles
Organizations are seizing the opportunity to reevaluate their financial allocations and identify areas for enhancement. In scenarios where budgets have been trimmed or modified, businesses are uncovering avenues for optimizing employee performance. This can lead to role adjustments, shifts in responsibilities, and decisions regarding recruitment or attrition of team members.
Leveraging HR Partnerships
Amidst the ever-evolving landscape, enterprises are increasingly relying on HR partnerships to streamline operations. Complexities related to compliance, benefits administration, payroll, and other HR functions can become overwhelming, especially as teams are preoccupied with a myriad of other tasks.
Engaging and Supporting Remote Workers
1. Schedule Regular Check-Ins / Create a Communication Schedule
The biggest potential gap in remote work is communication. When your team, or a single team member, isn’t in the office every day, they lose opportunities to stay in-the-know. It’s up to you to open the team dialogue as much as you can. When employees aren’t in the office for “water cooler” chat, they miss out on important information that keeps them on the same page as the rest of their team. Try scheduling regular, team-wide check-ins so your employees can connect with each other and with you. You can use this time to update your team and encourage non-work conversations that bring everyone closer.
Even if you can’t be in the office, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate frequently and effectively. We have technology on our side to keep everyone connected and moving at a normal pace. When staying connected, email is not your strongest tool. Products like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts encourage fast communication that can sometimes be informal—promoting relationships and strengthening teamwork among your employees.
Having a unified communication tool is a great start, but the real key is to create a consistent communication schedule with your team. Set a virtual meeting at least once per week to let everyone share their wins and challenges, while allowing them to maintain the feeling they’re part of something larger. These regular meeting schedules also help keep employees from feeling isolated or alone.
2. Make Time for Simple Connection
Beyond staying connected on work initiatives, it’s crucial that your employees stay connected on a personal level as well. Set aside time for a weekly coffee chat, a virtual game night (or afternoon), or other activity your team would enjoy. This could also translate to one-on-one time with your team members. If your schedule permits, make time for monthly or quarterly chats with individual employees to connect with them. They will appreciate the dedicated time to discuss whatever is on their mind.
3. Provide Them with the Necessary Technology
Depending on the type of work, your employees may need additional equipment or software to work from home productively. You can explore project management software and productivity journals that your team might appreciate to stay on track. Open a conversation about their home workspace and what may help them or what might be holding them back.
4. Give Them a Platform to Contribute
Employees who have introverted tendencies could be lost in the shuffle. Ensure that you’re giving everyone on your team an equal platform to contribute their thoughts and ideas. On video calls or conference calls, you might stop to ask this person directly what they think. They might have something valuable to contribute but haven’t found the right moment to interject or feel too shy to interrupt. By providing each employee with a platform to speak up, you can avoid someone feeling left out or like they aren’t being heard.
5. Define and Clarify Goals
Ensure your team members understand their goals for the day, week, month, and year. Depending on the person, they may become less motivated without deadlines and goals that are laid out beforehand. By setting goals, you can manage employees—without micromanaging—and help them feel secure knowing that they are fulfilling your expectations.
Here are a few questions they might have:
- What time should they be online or available for calls?
- What type of dress code is required for video calls, if any?
- How quickly should they be meeting deadlines?
- What is the expectation for weekly team meetings?
6. Encourage Utilization of Calendars
Supervisors and employees will find it helpful to see everyone’s calendars so that they can schedule meetings or send messages according to when someone is available. Encouraging your team to keep their calendars updated also gives them a chance to think ahead on their work schedules.
7. Implement Information Security Measures
Remote work poses new information security issues that your team may not have encountered previously. Ensure that your employees’ equipment has strong antivirus software that is updated regularly. It’s also helpful to provide team members with a VPN to keep their connection safe if they should need to connect to public Wifi. Consult an information security professional to ensure that your remote work environment is secure.
8. Provide Opportunities for Collaboration
Create opportunities for members of your team to collaborate on projects. You can use collaborations to promote teamwork and engage your employees. Try creating open-ended projects that encourage creativity and allow the team to express their personalities.
9. Recognize Accomplishments
It always feels good to be recognized for a job well done. Take every opportunity you can to point out what your team is doing well and when they’ve gone above and beyond. If a client compliments a product or service, pass those comments along to your team. A positive word can go a long way in boosting morale.
10. Make Small, Meaningful Gestures
Even the smallest gesture can mean a lot to your employees and show them that you care. This can come in many forms: birthday gifts, handwritten cards, announcements or celebrations, and surprise treats. You can make these gestures even more personal by sending your employees surveys to learn more about their favorite things and hobbies.
In a post pandemic world, the remote workforce is here to stay. Organizations that have implemented effective tools to manage, support and engage remote workers will be ahead of the game in both hiring and retaining top talent. If your organization is looking for guidance in how to navigate leading remote team members contact LBMC Employment Partners. And if you are needing help finding talent to fill those roles, contact LBMC Staffing Solutions.
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