In some offices around the world, remote work was slowly becoming normalised even before COVID. However, for the majority of businesses office-based working was the standard, and the thought of an entire workforce contributing from the comfort of their own homes seemed a far-away dream.
Now, of course, everything has changed, and it looks like things aren’t going back to the old way any time soon. This has raised a new conundrum for managers and business owners across the world: how to manage remote employees effectively?
Productivity and working from home
Over the past two years, there have been – for obvious reasons – a great amount of studies into the impact of working from home regarding both the productivity and happiness of the average worker. One such study, conducted in March 2021, found that a massive 83% of employees feel that being based in an office has no impact on their productivity, with 75% stating that working from home actually increases their productivity due to a lack of distractions.
Elsewhere, a Stanford study found a 13% boost to productivity when employees were based at home. This was attributed primarily to fewer sick days, fewer distractions, and shorter breaks. Interestingly, at the same time, participants reported an overall increase in job satisfaction.
Any quick Google search into working from home and productivity will find that there’s a positive correlation between the two. Despite this, remote employees still need effective management, or deadlines can be missed, and targets lost sight of. Below, we’re going to run you through some simple ways to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to managing your remote employees.
How to manage remote employees
1 - Make sure your team has everything they need
Not everybody is lucky enough to have a well-equipped home working space. For some, a dining room table may have to suffice, or a coffee table. In order to keep your employees working at their best, set them up with anything they need to be comfortable and productive. This may be out of your hands, but you can help your employees out in nearly all other respects.
Are their laptop cameras up to standard for high-quality video calls? Do they have the necessary apps installed on their laptops, and access to all the files they need? Do they have access to the sort of ergonomic equipment that might usually be available in-office? Many companies attribute a small budget to each employee to enable them to make any purchases they need to get set up properly. It’s a good investment, with a large increase in productivity and happy employees as the reward!
2 - Promote frequent communication
Things are different when you’re working remotely. No longer can you swivel round in your chair and fire a quick question at your colleague. Instead, messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat are used to send quick messages back and forth. Decide which of these best suits your team’s working style, and encourage your team to use them whenever possible.
Many lengthy video calls can often be reduced to emails, and many emails can usually be reduced to a quick few messages on an app.
Keeping an open dialogue between your management and your team is key to successful remote working, and ensures there’s no drop in collaboration between individuals and teams.
3 - Trust your team
If you want your employees to work from home successfully, trusting them is the key to good management. Micro-managing and looming over their every digital move will breed general resentment, as your team begins to feel as though they’re not trusted, and therefore not genuinely valued within their roles.
By allowing your employees the freedom to work from home without monitoring them too closely, you’ll in turn gain their loyalty.
4 - Set clear objectives to maximise clarity
As we mentioned earlier, when working from home there’s no option of asking the person sitting beside you for their opinion or help. In order for this to work, clear objective setting is paramount. A vague description of a task over a hasty Zoom call isn’t enough; if your employees are going to remain productive when working remotely (and even boost their productivity), they have to know what their objectives are with total clarity.
When setting objectives, be it at the start of each working day or at the beginning of the month, make them clear, logical, objective and quantifiable. This way, everybody knows precisely what’s expected of them at the outset, and can work towards a common goal safe in that knowledge.
5 - Show recognition of a job well done
There’s so much lost in writing, compared to conversation. If your team is excelling and hitting targets, encourage more frequently than you would do in the office, to compensate for the fact that a ‘well done’ message doesn’t have quite the same impact as saying it face to face.
Positive feedback not only makes your employees happier, but also serves to reinforce the behaviours you’d like to see more of. This may sound like simple stuff, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget when working far from your team.
6 - Check in regularly
When working from home, many people can experience moments of isolation; logging off on a Friday evening doesn’t have the same giddy feel to it when you’re simply closing your laptop on the kitchen table, rather than bidding farewell to a buzzing office. Learning how to manage remote workers effectively means remembering to check in often, to ensure that, alongside targets being met, your team’s mental health is in tip-top shape.
7 - Streamline employee management with an employee performance management tool
If you’re busy doing the above six bullet points, chances are you’ll be a little short on time. However, the seventh point in our list is here to save you: use a performance management tool.
We have no small amount of experience in this ourselves; we recently helped a client, Note It, to develop a mobile/web based platform that would streamline the often complicated process of employee management. The platform we created (which you can read about in more detail here) smooths out dozens of otherwise time consuming processes at once. These include recording workplace behaviours and performance, enabling regular feedback, and establishing data-driven insights into your team’s overall output during their time spent working from home.
Ultimately, working from home is a chance for your employees to take further responsibility for their productivity, and work on their own terms. With trusting, effective management, there’s no reason your team's productivity and happiness when working from home can’t be the highest it’s ever been. The power of technology allows now-remote teams to come together seamlessly in ways we never knew would be possible.
If you’d like to discover how software can help streamline your business, reduce costs, increase revenue, gain actionable insights and engage customers better, drop us a message here for a free consultation.
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