As more organizations offer employees the option to work from home or in a hybrid model, managers are key to creating a productive, respectful remote workplace. From ensuring that everyone has the necessary technology and equipment to promoting virtual teamwork, managers play a critical role.
Here are 6 tips for managing remote employees:
1. Set clear expectations
Managers can set the stage for a successful remote work experience by establishing clear expectations for individual and team responsibilities, goals and projects, with benchmarks and checkpoints along the way.
Managers should also set expectations for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Employees should understand that the organization’s code of conduct and policies and laws against discrimination, harassment and bullying apply in the remote workplace. Implementing a remote work policy is a way to reinforce expectations and guidelines and help ensure that the organization complies with employment laws that may apply to remote employees.
2. Communicate in different ways
Being proactive about communicating and checking in with team members is one of the essentials for managing remote employees. And since being physically apart reduces the opportunities for impromptu interactions, it’s important for managers to have the right tools, platforms and programs to communicate effectively. Beyond technology is the human factor. Managers who can express empathy and understanding and be sensitive to the differences and comfort levels of others can foster a culture of inclusion and belonging even in a remote work environment.
3. Keep cyber security top of mind
With cyber criminals increasingly targeting remote workers since COVID-19, all employees need to stay up to date on the organization’s data security protocols and guidelines to protect confidential and sensitive information. Phishing attacks are among the most common cyber crimes that employees should be on alert for.
Phishing scams use email, phones, texts and social media to ‘lure and hook’ people into divulging personal or confidential information or downloading malicious software. Managers should ensure that employees are trained on how to recognize different forms of phishing and other attempts at fraud, and who to report their suspicions to.
4. Provide team building opportunities
Remote scavenger hunts, virtual cooking classes and other team building activities enable remote employees to connect with each other in new ways that can boost morale, enhance the employee experience and strengthen the organization’s work culture.
5. Evaluate how things are going
By regularly evaluating how things are going in the virtual workplace, managers can gauge what is and isn’t working. Work-life balance is one of the key areas to be mindful of. While many employees prefer working from home, remote work fatigue is real.
According to recent Gartner research, 93% of HR leaders surveyed are increasingly concerned about employee burnout. Managers can demonstrate what work-life balance means by providing flexible work arrangements and respecting employees’ personal time. This includes not scheduling meetings outside of normal work hours and holding off on sending emails on weekends and after hours.
6. Solicit and respond to feedback
Routinely soliciting and responding to employee feedback about their remote work challenges can help improve employee engagement and build trust. Beyond surveys, focus groups and employee resource groups, one-on-one conversations provide managers with opportunities to engage in open, honest communication and actively listen to the concerns and questions of remote staff.
As the workplace continues to evolve in the COVID-19 era, managing remote employees and ensuring they feel connected, valued and respected is one of the challenges for organizations. Setting clear goals, reinforcing expectations for behavior, promoting work-life balance and encouraging open, honest communication are among the ways that managers can create a positive, inclusive experience for all employees.
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