Caring for your remote employees

There’s a fine line between managing your team, and truly caring for them during a very difficult and uncertain time in our history. A good boss does both, and this will pay dividends in the long-term, creating loyalty amongst a team which feels truly supported by its leader

Managing a team is never easy – but managing them from a distance can be even more challenging. This is due not only to the fact that you can’t keep tabs on what they’re doing work-wise as easily as you would if they were in the same room, but also because you can’t connect with them to check on their wellbeing as easily. When the whole team is working from home, as many of us now are, it can be very much ‘out of sight, out of mind’ unless a constant connection is maintained – and employees need support more than ever.

According to a 2019 study by Epson, 48% of people who work from home most – if not all – of the time – freelancers, specifically, in this case – find doing so ‘lonely’, with 46% adding that it’s ‘isolating’. Additionally, 25% of survey respondents said they experienced ‘frequent periods of depression’, with 21% adding that home-working caused them to have suicidal thoughts due to loneliness.

This, now, is what many employers across the country have to deal with, as people are forced to work within their homes and be confined there all day, every day. While some may enjoy this – or, at least, tolerate it –  for others, it’s a nightmare, so managers now have to step up and ensure their staff are coping well and remaining happy and healthy in their roles.

The key, here, is communication. According to Instant Offices, for many workers, increased connectivity in their personal and work lives has made the transition into remote working a relatively easy one. Faster and more reliable wi-fi and broadband, access to cloud systems and team collaboration tools mean ‘the office’ can be just about anywhere. By streamlining your work processes in this way, your team can be more professional, productive and efficient in the long run.

Having a remote-working team can help reduce stress among members of staff who want to self-isolate, which will also reduce the chance of in-office infection. However, along with the benefits, there are some challenges to managing remote teams. The first is that, more than ever, people based in different locations now have to work together for a common goal, and speak to each other even more than they normally would within the office. Implementing this won’t necessarily be easy, especially as people’s home situations differ widely, and the size of teams will impact this too.

Create communication guidelines

Laying down some ground rules regarding ongoing communication during this lockdown period is essential to making sure the next few weeks or months go as smoothly as possible. One idea to show your team that you’re there for them is to host a daily, or weekly, video meeting, to ask how everybody is feeling, give them a chance to air any issues and let them know you’re there to support them. Offering one-to-one video chat will also be welcomed by staff, and will allow those who might be having difficulties to speak privately about their issues in a way that may, in reality, feel less intimidating than if you were actually face-to-face.

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Focus on wellbeing

Wellbeing in the workplace has been a growing concern in recent years – but it’s needed more than ever in this trying time. It could be that your staff are struggling with anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic in general, they may be worried about a vulnerable relative or friend; they may even be ill themselves or it might be that they’re worried about a future which is sure to be very different to what they might have anticipated.

There’s a chance they’re also thinking about the security of their jobs, and how they’re going to be able to perform them from their homes – especially if they haven’t done so before, or they’re not really set up for it. This is a difficult time for us all, but let your staff know that they’re valued, ensure they know what they’re doing on a daily basis, and drum home the knowledge that they can come to you if they need to.

Choose the right tools for your culture – not the other way around

Instant Offices suggests that, because all communication and collaboration will be done using online tools, it is essential to choose apps and software that match the culture you are trying to create. If you want to create a fun, laid-back environment, choose tools that match this atmosphere. You also want to make it as easy as possible for your remote team to stay up-to-date. Be it via video conferencing tools, chat apps, or the comments section of your project management tool, you need to offer various ways for keeping in touch and on top of the work.

Take this opportunity to team-build

Team-building does wonders to foster communication, especially when workers aren’t seeing one another on a daily basis. It’s still possible to be social through a variety of video chat platforms, where staff can catch up with colleagues for light-hearted chats and, perhaps, even non-work activities such as a pub quiz-style challenge or watching a documentary or film together using Chrome’s Netflix Party extension.

“There’s plenty of data to back up the benefits of working remotely, so work will continue, even with the challenges ahead,” says John Williams, head of marketing at The Instant Group. “With planning, open lines of communication and the right tech, there’s no reason why companies can’t run successful remote teams for short periods, or even integrate more remote-working into their future approach on a permanent basis.”

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