Managing Employees Remotely
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of working life in the UK, with huge numbers of employees now working remotely.
Managing employees who work remotely can bring a whole set of new challenges for businesses, however, there are steps businesses can take to ensure that employees working remotely remain productive and engaged.
Ensure the necessary policies and procedures are in place
Whilst most employees began working remotely in an unplanned manner, this arrangement is continuing for many. It is important that businesses, if they haven’t already, begin to put into place the policies and procedures for managing remote workers effectively. This usually includes a homeworking/remote working policy and health and safety processes including a homeworking risk assessment for example.
These documents should clearly set out what support the business will provide and what is expected of the employee. For example, will the busines provide office furniture, business telephone lines, etc….
Ensure employees have the equipment necessary to work effectively
Employees will need more than a mobile phone to work effectively from home. Do they need cameras to support virtual meetings? Or a headset? Do they have access to a stationary supply? Do you need to provide them with a printer?
Ensuring employees have the necessary equipment to do their job effectively is critical to them being productive and engaged.
Ensure managers have regular contact with employees. This is critical to the employee feeling engaged and supported. When employees work remotely, there are no “quick catch ups” when getting a coffee, or bumping into people in the office. It is critical that managers make extra effort to check in with employees regularly. The most effective way to do this is by telephone, rather than email.
Managers must work harder to build rapport with remote workers. Managers must take time to get to know remote workers.
Along with informal check-ins with employees, managers should also have regular one-to-ones with employees, and these should be more frequently for remote employees. We would recommend that these take place weekly or fortnightly.
Also ensure that regular team meetings are held, ideally by video conference.
Use video and telephone communication wherever possible, rather than email
When building and maintaining relationships with remote workers it is incredibly important not to rely on email. Use telephone and video conferencing/calls whenever possible. This will allow managers to pick up on verbal and non-verbal clues, which wouldn’t be possible in an email. It also allows for a more effective discussion around the topic in question.
There are many different platforms available that offer great video solutions, here are a few of our favourite and most commonly used:
When employees are working remotely, it is critical that there is trust between the employee and their manager. Managers may find it difficult to make the adjustment to losing the constant visibility of employees that they may have once had, however, it is critical that employees are empowered to do their job remotely.
A key part of building this trust will be communicating effectively with employees as detailed above.
Manage through target setting
Manage employees by the targets and tasks they are expected to deliver, rather than the hours spent working. These are the key measures of an employees’ success.
Ensuring all employees have clear short, medium and long term objectives will mean that they are focusing on the key priorities of their role, that they are clear about the expectations of them, and they are contributing effectively to the overall success of the organisation. It also makes it very easy for managers to quickly and easily address any performance issues and support employees if problems arise.
Ensure clear ownership or projects, activities and tasks to ensure there is no confusion about responsibility.
Regularly review progress and performance, and ensure the business’ appraisal process is followed for remote employees.
Remember training and development
It is important to remember that employees who work remotely may want to progress in their career and not to forget about their personal development. A large number of training and development activities can be undertaken remotely, everything from health and safety courses or degrees! Ensure that employees working remotely have access to development opportunities which help them succeed in their current role and also prepare them for future opportunities.
Recognise and reward success
When employees work remotely, recognition can sometimes be forgotten. It is even more important to recognise and reward success. Even a simple ‘thank you’ can be enough.
Support employees’ mental health
It can be lonely working remotely! Ensure that managers use every opportunity to support employees and look out for any signs that an employees’ mental health is being affected by remote working. Signs of poor mental health can include:
- Poor concentration
- Being easily distracted
- Finding it hard to make decisions
- Being less interested in things
- Low mood
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
- Talking less and avoiding social activities
- Finding it difficult to control emotions
- Drinking more (alcohol)
- Irritability and short temper
Provide regular updates on the business
Continue to provide regular updates on the performance of the business, the wider organisational goals and the business strategy in the coming year(s). This ensures employees are aligned with the wider organisational goals.
Where there is a change in working arrangements, there are opportunities for this change to have a huge positive impact on the business. What changes should remain permanent? Carefully review the impact of the changes, and assess what is right for the long-term future of the business. Involve employees in this process…those doing the jobs usually have the best insight into what is working well and what can be improved. Where further improvements are required to support remote working, again involve employees in this…what ideas do they have that could solve the problem?
It is easy to have unplanned discussions when employees are office based, and ther eis a danger that employees can be missed out of important conversations when they are working remotely. Make a concerted effort to ensure all relevant employees are involved in discussions, even if that means a short delay in having the conversation. Overall, it will be a more effective approach as all relevant parties will be involved in any key decisions.
Face to face meetings
Hold face to face meetings regularly (not necessarily frequently). This could be quarterly, every six months or even annually. It is important to meet employees in person periodically, so they feel connected to the team and the wider business. These meetings are a unique opportunity to review performance, set strategy and goals and build relationships with remote employees.
Use technology effectively
When employees are working remotely, it is even more important to use technology effectively. This includes telephone and video-conferencing as detailed above, but also, ensuring there is an effective shared filing system for shared documents that all employees can access, for example, one drive. Ideas can also be shared by using technology for online brainstorming sessions with the use of whiteboard technologies. One good example of this is Microsoft Whiteboard. Using technology is a great advantage to your business and many alike, but it is worth understanding that bringing change will bring challenges too. There is a high probability that introducing new technologies to your business will require additional learning, mentoring and training with your team.
Luckily, a lot of these platforms today have extensive e-learning guides available to help you with this transition.
Support remote workers to fight cabin fever!
Ensure that remote workers take regular breaks, and get fresh air. This will help, rather than hinder, their productivity.
We strongly recommend that employers:
- Ensure they have the policies and procedures in place to manage employees remotely, including home working policies and the necessary health and safety processes.
- Ensure they have good management practices in place to manage employees remotely: team meetings, one to ones and appraisals.
- Communicate with employees regularly.
- Focus on the key deliverables.
- Be inclusive and supportive.
- Meet face to face periodically.
For further information, advice or support in employees remotely including the policies and procedures to support remote working, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.