Until very recently, remote working was on a definite upswing but still far from being accepted as a viable option by a majority of employers. In a concerted global effort to combat COVID-19, however, people everywhere are being told (in some cases required) to stay at home unless they need supplies or emergency assistance of some kind — and while some industries can’t endure this and are seeing mass layoffs, many companies can survive through remote working.
If you’re in that fortunate position, then you’re likely in the early stages of adapting to a new paradigm that seems set to last for many months. It’s providing a tough transition for many businesses who didn’t anticipate moving to a remote working model for years, if ever, so it’s understandable if you — and your employees — are struggling.
But soldier on, because you can and will cope with this. To help you along the way, here are some tips for charting these choppy and disconcerting waters:
Show that you trust your workers
When your employees are clustered in your office, you can monitor them fairly easily. Many office-based businesses take oversight very seriously because they wish to tightly control worker activity: they time breaks strictly, block social websites and other distractions, and have myriad limits on what can be said and done in the working environment.
And if work requires those employees to leave the office, the tracking continues through action logging, regular check-ins, and even vehicle telematics in the case of fleet-based operations. Is this tracking always unreasonable? No, of course not: it’s sensible to keep records of actions for posterity (and legal safeguarding), and telematics are essential for improving journey efficiency. But a lot of it — particularly to do with forbidding certain things — achieves very little.
In short, don’t obsess over what your employees are doing throughout the day: when they’re working, when they’re not, how they’re working, etc. If they’re content, hitting their productivity targets, and meeting all vital deadlines, then leave them to work as they prefer.
Help out with home office setups
Not having to handle commuting is certainly a big positive of working from home, but standard office stations tend to be fairly well designed, featuring such things as ergonomic seats, multiple monitors, and strong lighting to keep people alert when it’s dark outside. For anyone used to that kind of setup, a kitchen table is a rough step down — and if you want to keep productivity and morale high, you should fund some meaningful improvements.
Does that notion distress you in a time of financial uncertainty? Well, if people are working from home then the business is still operating and generating revenue, so the challenges of the time don’t excuse penny-pinching. Besides, you don’t need to buy solid-gold desks: focus on additional displays, keyboards, mice, and chairs until everyone is satisfied with their setup.
Establish clear lines of communication
For your employees to continue to work as a team by readily sharing advice and information, they need to be able to communicate as close to seamlessly as is possible at a distance. That means taking advantage of software tools for everything from workplace conversation to project management. Tasks should be clearly allocated. Lines of authority should be understood, with every employee knowing to whom they report (in principle, at least).
Additionally, as the head of the operation, you’ll need to walk a fine line between being overly present (leading people to not only rely on your input but also feel that you’re looking over their shoulders) and being too distant (causing some employees, particularly those with the most delegated responsibility, feeling unmoored). It’s tricky to get it right, but you can figure it out as you can go along — and one day, it’ll become apparent that you’ve done it.
If you nail remote communication by getting all the right tools in place, covering any necessary training, being a responsible figurehead, and holding regular meetings (professional and social, since company culture matters), then a team of people working from home shouldn’t be notably less productive than a team of office workers.
Though transitioning to remote working (whether temporarily or permanently) is surely challenging, and even stressful, it shouldn’t ultimately be too difficult if you follow the tips we’ve covered here. Good luck.
Photo credits: eOffice, Needpix