2020 has certainly turned the world on its head.  The necessity to work from home has brought with it huge challenges, particularly for managers.  How do you effectively manage staff that are now working remotely?  How do you successfully keep them on task and motivated, manage their productivity and ensure they remain connected to you and their team?  There are a few tips we can give you to help you navigate this brave new world we are living in.

The Challenge

We hear a lot in the media about the benefits of working from home – and there is no doubt there are many.  No commuting time, flexibility, not to mention the ability to work in your pyjamas!  But not every employee will take to working from home like a duck to water.  As a manager, you need to be across the challenges that some employees will face.

  • Some employees will feel a sense of isolation working from home, particularly if they live alone, or are used to working in close collaboration with other team members
  • Morale and team spirit can take a hit when working from home
  • Teamwork and Collaboration can be difficult when working remotely
  • Productivity actually increases when staff work remotely according to some studies, however, most of those relate to staff having chosen to do so, and who have probably spent some time planning how the new dynamic will work

So what can you do to manage these challenges?

Retaining Staff

Isolation

This is all about managing communication.  Employees are generally used to running into each other in the corridor or at the coffee machine, and it’s amazing how much actual ‘work’ gets done in these situations.  If you can set up channels of communication that replicate the ‘water cooler phenomenon’ you will reduce those feelings of isolation.  If you have a company intranet, try setting up channels for teams, departments and cross-department projects.  If not, you might like to consider closed-account social media, where employees can ‘chat’ freely.  Make a range of channels available, so that whatever form of communication each employee prefers, there is somewhere they can go to give and receive information or make contact when they need it.

It is also important to recognise that not all employees want or need to hear about every aspect of the business.  Create specific communications for your team so they don’t have to wade through rivers of irrelevant information, as this might suggest to them you don’t really know what they do.

Set up a structured ‘check-in’ schedule.  Whether it is daily or weekly will depend on the level of contact your employees expect, and it might not be the same for everyone.  Think about whether one on one, team check-ins or a combination of the two, are most appropriate.

The key is to keep the lines of communication open, not just with you, but with the entire team.

Morale

When morale is low, productivity is low and employees are at risk of being ‘poached’ by other companies, so it is important to maintain morale in this difficult time.

Blogs and vlogs can be a great way of keeping staff informed and supporting the culture of the organisation.  Focus on facts and positive developments.  Information vacuums build negativity and uncertainty, so keep your team informed.

Share achievements – not only of the organisation but of team members.  When staff are working remotely achievements can be overlooked, which can dampen morale.  So make sure everyone knows when someone has hit a milestone, whatever that might be.

Don’t make it all about work.  That water cooler phenomenon we talked about earlier also carries with it a social element, and when this is missing morale can nosedive.  I once worked with a company where one department had ‘Morning Tea’ every Friday morning.  Attendance was mandatory, staff took turns in providing the food, and often someone from another department was invited as a ‘guest’.  It was a great way to build team morale.

Recruitment Goal Setting

Regular video meeting morning teas or evening drinks will help the team stay connected on an emotional level.  With the proliferation of food delivery services, you could even arrange a virtual lunch.  Think about what your team might like – there will be a way to make it happen.

Teamwork and Collaboration

It can be hard to collaborate in a remote environment.  If collaboration and document sharing is important, ensure you have the right software in place to achieve this.  If you don’t have a company intranet, there are great digital workplace platforms that are not overly expensive and can increase communication, collaboration and productivity.

This can be especially hard on new employees who haven’t been able to develop relationships with existing staff.  Develop a workplace ‘bible’ which lists all employees, their contact details, their roles, areas of expertise and skillsets.  This can help staff find the advice or information they need to keep their own projects moving along.

It is also worth developing some specific communication channels for each team so that they are able to support the unique sub-culture that inevitably develops when collaborating.

Productivity

It is really important to trust your employees to do their job.  Working from home may mean they take a longer break in the middle of the day to go to the gym, or head out at 2:30 to pick the kids up from school, but trust that they will get their job done.  There’s nothing like a little faith to make people feel valued and respected.  So talk through with them what schedule works for both of you and where possible provide them with that flexibility.

A poor tradesman blames his tools, but if you are working from home and you don’t have the tools you need it can lead to a lack of productivity.  Whether it is a sufficiently powerful laptop or reliable internet access, it is your responsibility to ensure they have what they need.

A Couple of Tips for Managing You

As a manager, it is important to lead by example.  Your team will look to you for cues on how to handle the situation.  So if you can stay open and honest, chances are they will too.

Lastly, unless you have agreed it beforehand, try not to message your employees at 9 pm.  You might like working in the evening but they might not.  Be respectful of their personal time.

Katz Recruitment is a full-service boutique recruitment agency located in North West Sydney.  If you would like to discuss your recruitment needs or are looking for a new challenge, please don’t hesitate to contact us or visit us on Facebook