There’s an excellent chance that as a manager, you never thought you would be supervising employees who work remotely. But now you may need to adapt to the new reality brought about by Covid 19.
In doing so, you might feel disconnected from your staff, feel like you don’t have control of your team, and worry whether you can trust them to work as hard as they might if they worked in your office.
But you need not feel that way if you take some proactive steps, so there is a mutual understanding of expectations.
Establish Clear Expectations
Projects must be outlined in such a way so that a remote working employee understands what must be done and deadlines.
We are all used to lots of interaction in the workplace. Make sure your remote staff knows that they can check in with you if they have questions. Similarly, employees can expect contact from you if issues or new projects arise.
When we aren’t all avoiding the Covid 19 virus, employees who work remotely should be invited back to the main office for periodic (weekly?) meetings. Trust is built through interpersonal communications, plus it reduces the feeling of isolation for the worker.
Establish A Pattern of Communications
Besides quick check-ins, set up a schedule of daily and weekly meetings via phone, Zoom, or similar technology.
Trust Your Team
There are many reasons why some managers don’t like it when they can’t keep an eye on the daily comings and goings of their workers. To help, set up “work at home,” rules that govern work hours (if necessary), and clear deadlines for projects. Some companies set up rules like requiring all emails and phone calls to be returned within a four-hour period of time. But my best advice is to trust that your employees will not take advantage of the situation. If they do, then as a manager, you have to deal with the performance issue just as you would with an office-bound worker. Keeping focused on goals is the best approach.
You are likely to face an additional challenge if only some of your staff work remotely while others work in the office. Guard against the development of an “us versus them” culture. In-house workers might think that those who work from home have it too easy and might be jealous that they get to wear their jammies and do the laundry during the day. Conversely, remote workers can feel isolated, unnecessarily judged, and not trusted. They might feel like they don’t know what is going on with the organization. As the manager, you approved this arrangement. Even if you have your concerns, you now need to support it and not take sides.
Learning how to work with a remote team, even if only temporarily, will give you the skillset that might be needed again in the future. Increasingly we find many individuals prefer to work from their home or a coffee shop. You might need to hire a contractor that doesn’t need to be in your office for their unique skills. One successful company I know of now prefers to employ remote workers because it allows them to hire the most talented individual without trying to convince them to move to their small town location with less than perfect weather.
The phenomena of remote workers are neither new or unusual. An emergency like Covid 19 is an excellent opportunity to see how it might work for your organization on a more permanent basis.
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