Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working was rising around the world. In 2019, 43% of US employees worked away from the office, while 54% of Canadian companies have expanded their options for remote work over the last three years. However, there’s no denying that the various coronavirus lockdowns around the world have increased the number of people doing their jobs from home.
The discovery that many jobs can be done just as well remotely as they were in an office suggests that remote working isn’t going away any time soon. So how can you adjust as a manager to these new circumstances? You can’t rely on your ordinary management strategies when your team is no longer working in the same place, so you should bear the following things in mind:
1. Check-in regularly
In the UK, one in five remote workers struggle with loneliness, with around the same number in the US reporting loneliness as their main struggle with remote working. It can be really easy as a remote employee to feel disconnected from your team, which is why it’s crucial for managers to maintain a connection with regular check-ins.
It’ll be down to you to decide how regularly to do this. Some members of your team might appreciate daily meetings, while others will be fine with a weekly catch-up. However, in addition to these one-to-ones, you should also schedule in time for the team to meet up on a regular basis, even if it’s just for a virtual meeting at the beginning of each week.
2. Establish technology as part of your workplace culture
Remote workers need to communicate, and as Kevin Kruse - CEO of LEADx and author of Great Leaders Have No Rules - points out, video is the best way to do that. A large amount of the way we communicate is non-verbal, and without visuals, messages can get missed and comments can be misinterpreted.
However, it’s not enough to insist your employees always use video calls when they communicate; you have to equip them to do so. As Gartner points out, you need to make sure all employees have the equipment they need to be successful. When working from home, this will include an adequate camera and microphone, so there are no barriers to effective communication.
3. Emphasize trust
The evidence is clear: high-trust workplaces perform better. However, this seems to go out of the window when remote working is concerned, with managers even installing software to monitor how employees spend their time. This isn’t a good idea, as your team will resent you for it, affecting their performance and making them more likely to seek out new roles.
One way to look at things is to focus on outcomes and only outcomes. In other words, if your team completes their week’s work on time, that’s all that matters. As long as they’re contactable during work hours, it doesn’t really matter how they spend their time if the work gets done. In fact, one of the benefits of remote working is the flexibility to work however suits you best, so lean into that.