Remote work has been with us for quite some time. Thanks to the advances in technology it continually becomes easy to work remotely. The arrival of the coronavirus forced the world to leap remote working and we can safely say things will never be the same again. We can see that remote working works and we can safely say things will never be the same again. We can see that remote work works. Unfortunately, because we were pushed into remote work many managers and leaders were not ready to handle remote work. So how do we go about managing remote workforces?
First things first discard the good old days. Ok, that may be a bit extreme. You need to reconceptualise the way your business works and understand what remote work brings to the table for the business, employees and customers alike. You may need to revisit some of the ideas and rearrange things to make sense in the new normal.
Trust goes both ways
Some people struggle with the issue of trust in remote working setups. However, it’s important to realise that trust goes both ways. While you may be questioning if you can trust your employees to spend work time on work tasks they will be questioning if they can trust you to keep work tasks to work time. So look at both sides of the trust equation before bombarding your employees with a whole book of new rules.
Some things still need a human touch
It’s unavoidable but there are just some things that still require a human touch. And just to remove all doubt meetings are not one of those things. The point here is that these things are very few. Some industries may have more of them than others. The smart thing to do is to keep the need for physical presence to a minimum. If you annoy people by demanding physical presence when it’s not necessary, you might not get it when it is necessary. Or at least not with commitment.
Some roles may sink into the background and remote working setups only make this worse. It’s easy for some members to become disconnected from the organisation and the rest of the workforce. You may want to stimulate the involvement of team members rather than wait for it to happen in a remote working setup.
People before process
Remember that employees and customers are people before anything else. Your business may need things to be done a certain way but just remember to put people before processes. Employees disagree by performing poorly or leaving the business. Customers disagree by not doing business with you anymore.
Repurpose extra time to customers
One of the best things many have found with remote working is an incredible time saving it provides. Less time spent in traffic and transit means more hours available for work. You may find employees and even managers in a quandary about what to do with this extra time. The answer is to dedicate it to customers. Even if it means directing staff that normally don’t deal with customers to customer-facing tasks. The rewards are well worth it.
It’s important to respect employees space. Working from home and resourcing employees home offices means that they can attend to work tasks at almost any time. However, can doesn’t mean should and you need to keep this in mind. Sometimes it is not explicit. You may send an after-hours email to be attended to tomorrow but employees may feel you would prefer it addressed immediately. We also need to be cognizant of the fact that not all remote working situations are the same. If you are going to craft rules it’s best to do so with your employees rather than for them.
This may work differently for different personalities but I think we can all agree that the informal communication and interactions in the office help bring teams together. The trouble with remote working teams is that these interactions are largely taken out of the process. You may find a situation where the only interactions with employees end out being formal. As a leader, it’s important to remember to connect with employees even in remote working situations.
Some considerations for managing a remote workforce going forward. The pandemic has lasted longer than even the most pessimistic estimates imagined at first. And there are now conversations about coronavirus becoming an endemic, something we will just have to live with. Remote working may be to stay by design or by force.