As the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting business activity across the globe, organizations are reacting to unexpected challenges and adopting new business practices to align with social distancing, school closures and other public health measures. While the long-term impacts of these changes are unclear, the rapid shift to remote employee working arrangements has emerged as a major trend that is likely to result in lasting changes in business processes and interaction models.
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Remote Team Challenges and Solutions
Remote work comes with many challenges – both for workers and for employers. All of them can be tackled, but it’s important you’re completely aware of what remote workforce can bring to the table.
Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.
Challenges inherent in remote work include:
Lack of face-to-face supervision: Both managers and their employees often express concerns about the lack of face-to-face interaction.
Lack of access to information: Newly remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers.
Social isolation: Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting.
Distractions at home: In the case of a sudden transition to virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will be contending with suboptimal workspaces and (in the case of school and daycare closures) unexpected parenting responsibilities. Even in normal circumstances family and home demands can impinge on remote work; managers should expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.
Actions that you can take today include:
Establish structured daily check-ins: Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees.
Provide several different communication technology options: Email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face.
And then establish “rules of engagement”: Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams.
Provide opportunities for remote social interaction: One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.
Offer encouragement and emotional support: Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote work, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles.
IN THE END, YOUR LEADERSHIP WILL WIN THE DAY. YOU’VE GOT THIS!