How to manage your remote employees

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

In the last couple of years, we’ve been talking more about remote work as an emerging trend. While it was more popular with freelance workers, with a huge influx of ‘co-working spaces’ to accommodate the needs of remote working – corporate organisations have also caught on to this trend.

We have seen numerous reports and studies highlighting an increase in this trend across various sectors all over the globe. Some organisations have fully made remote work a norm, running their businesses solely on digital. Some have been testing the remote work by offering one to three days of ‘work-from-home’ opportunities to their employees.

Millennials and Generation Z seem to be leading the remote working revolution. Numerous reports are claiming that the people from these two generations are reshaping how they want to work, with the common thread of seeking flexibility to help them build a work-life balance.

Many companies have recorded how beneficial remote working is for both employees and companies. These include high performance, high productivity, high engagement, employee retention, and cost savings. Experts say employees who work from home are also happier, thanks to the flexibility that comes with remote working. They are happy to save costs on different factors such as traveling, coffees, and takeaways, according to data from the World Economic Forum.

Because of this, many countries have implemented a lockdown strategy, forcing many businesses to temporarily shut down their doors and comply with the social distancing rule. During the lockdown, people are encouraged to stay in their homes as a protective measure against the virus.

Organisations which have the capacity to work remotely can continue working, but the biggest challenge for companies that have not implemented remote working strategies and policies is learning to manage their new remote workers.

Fear not, your organisation can be successful at managing a remote team and be just as productive as they would have been had they been in the office environment. If any of the benefits mentioned above are anything to go by, your remote team members can be more productive than usual.

Through our own experiences, we’ve learned that It takes a few things to become an effective manager remotely. Below, you will find a few tips on how to better manage remote employees.

Practice empathy

It’s important to take time to observe all of your employees; learn about their living circumstances and acknowledge their challenges. What we mean here is that some of your employees live alone with their cats or dogs, others live with their family members, and some are single mothers/fathers. Whatever your employees’ living experiences are, it’s vital for you to practice empathy towards them and always keep all of that in mind when assigning tasks or setting up deadlines or team meetings.

Exercise effective communication

Communication is very important when you’re not working in the same room with your employees. You have to keep consistent and effective communication throughout the day or week. The tasks have to be clear, and they need to be clear about their outputs, deliverables and deadlines. Schedule meetings, video calls or video conferencing when the need arises. In your communication, remember to show your employees that you do trust that they have the capability to deliver their work. The last thing you want to do is micro-manage them and make their lives more difficult by showing that you don’t believe they can manage their own time and workload. Also, leave communication lines open for them to communicate any red flags that may arise unexpectedly. Encourage them to share their challenges on time and support them with practical assistance.

Provide tools and employee needs

As we have mentioned above, circumstances are not the same for all employees; communicate with your employees to find out what tools they need to be able to do their jobs at home. It can be anything from laptops to Wi-Fi connections, data or digital resources to help them work better.

Implement morale-building activities

While employees might be productive and produce high performance, you also have to create a culture of unity and support. You can do this by implementing activities to help build their morale. Let them get involved and share ideas that will best suit their needs. Uncertainty can be frustrating for anyone despite any position they may hold in an organisation. So, while there aren’t any clear indications on when the lockdown may be lifted in South Africa, it is important for employers to clearly communicate their business plans to employees. This way, employees can learn ways to adapt and adjust to the new settings of remote working. Since there cannot be any face to face check-ins, managers need to offer virtual professional and personal support to employees. It all starts with practicing empathy, communicating effectively, providing tools, and ramping up team members’ morale when it is seemingly dwindling.