Covid-19 has presented with our uncertainties and in response, many companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely. Although close to a quarter of the workforce already works from home, at least part-time, the new policies leave many employees along with their managers to work out of the office. For all the businesses having private limited company registration in India and even LLP, allowing work from home is a mandate by the government.
Although at a time like this, it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, this level of preparation may not always be feasible. Fortunately, there are some specific steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and efficiency of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.
Here are 3 Ways to get the best out of employees during work from home.
1. Give Them The Tools
Email alone is an inadequate tool; remote workers should be benefitted from having a “richer” immersive technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face. Video conferencing has many benefits, especially for smaller groups: Visual cues will allow increment in “mutual knowledge” about coworkers and also help in reducing the sense of isolation among teams. Video is essentially useful for more complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication for the workers.
There are other situations when quick collaboration is more efficient. For these conditions, provide cell phone-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) which can be used for simpler, informal conversations, as well as time-effective conversation.
If your company does not have technology gears in place, there are also cheaper ways to obtain easier versions of these tools for your team, such as a short-term fix. Consult with your organization’s IT department to ensure there is a suitable level of data security before using any of these tools.
2. Give Them Emotional Support
In the context of an abrupt shift to isolated work, it is important, especially for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and their concerns, and to empathize with their problems. For a new remote employee who is struggling but not communicating stress or anxiety, ask them by asking them how they’re doing. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can bring out important information that you might not otherwise hear.
Once you ask the question, be very sure to listen carefully and actively to the response, and briefly restate it back to the employee. Ensure that you understood correctly. Employee’s stress and concerns are to be given the focus on this conversation and it is something that helps them stay productive while working from home during COVID-19 outbreak.
Researches on emotional intelligence and emotional stress convey that employees always look to their managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crises. If a manager communicates strain and helplessness, this will leave with a “trickle-down” effect on employees.
Effective leaders take a two-sided approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also giving affirmation of their confidence in their teams, by using phrases such as “we have got this,” or “this is tough, but I know we can handle it,” or “let’s look for ways to use our strengths during this time.” With this support, employees are more likely to face up the challenge with a sense of purpose and meaning.
3. Provide Opportunities For Remote Social Interaction
One of the most pivotal steps for a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially which is to have informal conversations about non-work topics while working remotely. This is especially important for workers who have been unexpectedly transitioned from the office desk.
The simplest way to set up some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items, e.g., “We are going to spend the first few minutes just catching up with each other. How was your weekend?” Other alternatives include virtual food parties (in which food items is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference), or virtual office parties in which party “care packages” can be sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously.
While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experienced managers of remote workers and the workers themselves have reported that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging and bonding.
The ways suggested above are a great way to start, but it’s up to you to make the most of them. The lack of close proximity gives remote workers more freedom and responsibility, but it also makes the little acts of everyday communication more difficult. Especially, while working remotely, make team meetings a precious time to share insights, so you do not waste time. Take every opportunity to make sure everyone is on the same page and resist the temptation to avoid or delay acting on issues so they do not grow into bigger problems.