The unprecedented challenges that have arisen as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in many businesses having to have their staff engage in remote working, sometimes for the very first time.

The new way of working has left employees and managers separated and caused confusion on both sides. The good news however is there are a number of tips managers can follow in order to avoid mistakes and find the best way of managing a remote workforce.

Understanding hardware requirements

There are a number of hardware requirements that are absolutely essential for an employee to become a successful remote worker, including computer equipment, internet access, printers and scanners, shredders and secure authentication devices.

Even if an employee has some of the required equipment, it may not be fit for purpose, such as home routers that may not be data secure. Managers need to take into account the need for technical support teams to deal with the increase in the volume of required assistance.

Managers should also keep in mind that people may not know how to navigate virtual communication, or to feel comfortable with it, and accept that it will not be perfect while remaining respectful and professional.

Less comfortable employees may need to be coached on how to be clearer if their virtual exchanges are ineffective.

Watch out for problems

Managers should make use of indirect observations and direct conversations to get a clearer picture of the challenges and concerns being faced by their employees. Managers should make it clear on a regular basis that they care about their employees and will do what is necessary to support them.

While the remote working environment may be beneficial and even desirable for some employees, for some workers it could have the opposite effect and result in loneliness and a lack of motivation.

Even the most confident and outgoing worker can feel isolated working from home for an extended period of time. Managers will need to respond to employees on an individual basis based on the required support.

A sociable worker would benefit from the use of available social tools to provide the maximum possible team interaction, while less sociable workers may feel overlooked and wonder if their contribution is appreciated or useful, in which case managers can help to reiterate the importance of their position within the team and how valuable their participation actually is.

Remote working does not have to equate to social isolation - managers need to make use of ongoing team interaction together with careful planning to avoid complete social separation for employees.

Promoting dialogue

Engagement can be helped by communication efforts which promote two-way dialogues between employees and managers. It is far more important for an employee to understand the company’s decisions and their implications than it is for them to necessarily like them, according to research.

Two-way communication with fellow workers as well as managers will also help to provide employees with the necessary perspective and information, and allow them to feel a greater sense of control while expressing and processing any negative emotions.

Opportunities for dialogue focusing on the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the pandemic can be created by managers.

Create daily check-ins

A daily call with remote workers is one method that has been very successfully utilised by managers. This call can either be one on one for more independent workers or a team call for more collaborative employees.

The most important thing is that the daily calls are predictable and regular and create a forum for consultation between employees and their managers, allowing them to voice any questions and concerns they may have.

Have faith in your workers

It is vital for managers to have confidence and faith that their employees will be able to function effectively as remote workers. This will most likely be the outcome, assuming a sufficiently supportive structure is provided to them by their employers.

The loss of constant visibility of their workers can cause worry and even frustration for managers but micromanaging is not the correct response to these concerns, as it will only result in workers who are already stressed becoming even more fatigued and disengaged.

Offer several tech communication options

Just using email is most likely insufficient for managing a remote workforce. Technology like video conferencing can be a good deal more beneficial for remote workers as it provides visual cues akin to those in face to face meetings.

Smaller groups in particular can gain many advantages from video conferencing. It can help to make teams feel less isolated and is useful for more sensitive or complicated conversations, given that it adds a more personal touch compared to audio or written communication forms.

In addition to video conferencing, investing in communication solutions which focus on the employee user experience will encourage greater company-wide engagement. For employees to connect with their teams, solutions need to be easy to navigate and provide easily accessible data. Read our case study on Materion to see how they used intranet content to improve engagement and build community.

Concentrate on outputs

Working from home can be a complicated endeavour, especially for those doing it for the first time, and managers should concentrate on helping workers to complete their work via the simplest and most productive methods for them.

Lengthy approval processes may need to be discontinued and collaborations should be scheduled for mutually convenient times, with virtual tools being used when possible.

A greater sense of flexibility gives teams a greater sense of empowerment in regards to the completion of their assignments in individual ways. Managers should just discuss what needs to be accomplished with their teams and what is getting done, and pay less attention to the process by which these things are done.

Reinforce company values

Employers have been starting to treat workers as important stakeholders for some time now, a trend only further exacerbated by the extreme events of 2020. Now more than ever, employees need to feel sure that the company they work for has long-term plans to safeguard their future.

Many businesses in recent times have begun to build a set of values to demonstrate their appreciation for their employees and that it matters that their workers are able to have the best possible experiences and lives.

These values should be reinforced with remote workers.

The implementation of these tips will help managers to better understand and deal with the challenges and needs of managing remote workers.

To unlock the potential of your workforce and prevent colleagues from feeling disconnected, see how leaders can help to facilitate and create a culture of collaboration.