Remote employees can be as efficient and productive as on-site teams when managed well. They can contribute significantly to your organization’s success.
Efficient remote leadership begins with an understanding of the challenges that remote employees face amidst their work. Clarity on these challenges enables managers to strategize measures that address these challenges efficiently.
What are the Challenges Facing Remote Employees?
- Lack of in-person interactions, common in remote management, is often a great cause of concern for both remote employees and their managers. The absence of such interactions makes employees feel that managers are not in tune with their needs. As a result, managers cannot offer the support essential for remote employees to work more efficiently.
- Managers, on the other hand, are unsure of the value that remote employees bring to the table. Many managers work on the myth that remote employees do not invest as much effort as on-site employees. They attribute this myth to the lack of in-person interactions in remote working
- Minimal access to information is another challenge faced by remote employees. Reduced access prevents employees from giving their best to the job. It impacts their efficiency.
- The consequences of this minimal or lack of access to information impacts not only task completion but also the relations with remote employees. Lack of information and the resultant inefficiency can lead to a build-up of stress in remote employees.
- This can manifest in the form of curt communications and rude emails, which can lead to conflicts with the supervisor or with the team itself.
- A sense of loneliness often erupts in employees working remotely. This isolation can be attributed to the lack of informal interactions among employees and managers in a regular office setting.
- Extroverts are often the first to be impacted by the isolation caused by remote working. Prolonged periods of remote working without regular face-to-face communication affects introverts as well in the long run.
- Over time, the loneliness can erase any sense of belonging in remote employees to your organization. This lack makes a difference as it compromises the employees’ passion; and their willingness to go the extra mile for the organization
- Remote employees working with no sense of belonging to the company may soon look for other job opportunities. As a manager, this can mean losing a valuable employee.
How Leaders can Make their Remote Employees Thrive?
While challenges may seem complex, managers can employ some efficient ways to nurture a positive and constructive environment for their remote team.
Establish Daily Communication Routines
A daily communication routine is key to establishing a successful relationship with your remote employees. You can schedule these calls to be one-on-one or manager-to-team calls depending on the extent of collaboration required among remote employees.
For example, if the tasks are interdependent, then a team call would be best. If tasks are more of an independent nature, then individual one-on-one calls with each member are appropriate.
The key to making such calls a success is to turn them into a routine. When you make communication a priority, it becomes a routine. You create a channel for your remote employees to be heard.
Set a communication agenda for each day as well. This agenda will let your team members know how and when they can communicate with you throughout the day. For example, you could specify that you would be available for emergencies through chat, call, and text, all day. But, if the team wants video meetings, they may do so in the evening.
Make Multiple Communication Channels Available
Email or phone alone is not going to be adequate if you want to be available for your remote employees. Make use of available technologies efficiently.
In-house chat messengers are a great way to keep in touch with your remote team multiple times during a workday. Video conferencing is optimal for daily calls. This technology enables you to facilitate communication. Your remote team members will get to know each other through video calls.
Video meetings are similar to interacting with colleagues in a regular office setting. Your team members see and talk to each other. They get to know their team members and manager beyond their employee IDs. Visual cues can provide an insight into the other person’s personality. Facial interactions bring a human touch to every communication.
Video calls are also a great tool to resolve complex team issues. Employees may find it easier to explain their side of the issue through face-to-face interactions due to the personal aspect attached to it. Phone calls and chat messages often seem quite impersonal in comparison.
In addition to communication channels, ensure that your remote team is well-equipped with hardware and internet connectivity essential to produce intended results efficiently.
Discuss with your HR and IT teams to understand the communication channels you can create for your remote team. Talk to them about creating a remote employee technology kit. Explain how investing in such kits can provide long-term benefits for the company.
Make Interactions Bias-Free
It is easy to assume the worst of a remote team member that has sent a rude email. Your future interactions with the team member can be impacted by your biased assumption.
A positive leadership approach can help you overcome such obstacles and build better interpersonal relations with your team.
Work always on the assumption that every team member works with the best intentions. He/ she wants to give the best to the company. Any seemingly impolite behaviour can be a result of a build-up of stress over the day.
Unless you have concrete evidence that a team member is intentionally malicious, act on the assumption that every person has the best intentions.
Encourage Remote Interactions
Encourage remote interactions that are not related to work. Such interactions develop camaraderie among team members. You could make way for such interactions during official tasks.
For example, you could include an “informal break” during meetings and encourage remote employees to interact. Create a weekly virtual get-together where you get snacks delivered to your team members and enjoy them during the scheduled meeting. You can also ask your team to come up with different ideas for a virtual party.
Create opportunities for social interactions as well. For example, sending a personal note to each remote team member every month can boost your team’s spirit. Appreciate their efforts and what their contribution means to the team and the company.
Social activities such as online exercise sessions, coffee breaks, and yoga classes can help break the ice and improve communication and trust among employees. Regular mental health counselling sessions also help.
While these initiatives may seem forced on the surface, they convey to your employees that you care about their well-being. Such interactions develop a sense of belonging over time and counteract feelings of isolation.
If your remote team consists of a few or all employees working from home, then being flexible makes them more productive. On the surface, it may seem that these employees have the perfect work-life balance. After all, they are saved from daily commute, and they get to stay with their family.
But remote employees working from home, have their own challenges to face. When working from home, it is easy for employees to forget to maintain a work-life balance.
They often stay logged on for extra hours. In fact, a Gallup survey conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak shows that remote employees in the U.S. put in an extra hour’s work every day.
Managers looking to build a productive remote team can benefit from being flexible in their approach to managing remote teams. Allowing your employees the flexibility to fulfil their obligations is a successful first step forward.
Some effective ways to help your remote employees adjust their personal and professional obligations successfully:
- Allow employees to work at times that best boost their productivity in the day rather than enforcing a structured time
- Allow them breaks in the morning to take care of their children
- Give an extra day-off to every team member. This compensates for the extra hours that remote employees tend to put in every day.
- Encourage employees to stop their work at their scheduled end-of-day to help them focus on their personal lives.