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When Everyone wants WFH - Tips to Manage an Expanding Team of Remote Employees
29th March 2022
The onset of the pandemic had both employees and their managers working separately from a variety of settings – from home, from vacation rentals, from the beach even! Even in post-pandemic times, so many professionals are continuing to work either from-home or in hybrid mode. Traditional office hours are turned upside down with work from home culture, where maintaining a social connection with colleagues and working in a controlled setting is challenging, if not, impossible. A lot of companies are looking at whole teams of freshly hired employees who have never met each other in person and this has brought a unique challenge to the managers.
First let's identify what exactly and the main pain points in WFH (work-from-home) or WFA (work-from-anywhere) as it’s now being referred to.
Problems in managing remote employees
Lack of physical interaction
The mere presence of a senior can do wonders to new trainees when they feel someone is supporting and overseeing them. Such presence is questionable and often not felt in the virtual mode. Employees find themselves alone amidst crises and connecting with seniors is not always immediate.
Distractions at home
Your home may be the most comfortable place but that can be a problem. When it comes to work, your home is probably not the best suited place. Even the most disciplined and organised teams get distracted in a noisy/chaotic home setup and feel the urge to procrastinate a little. You’re juggling work with kids, parents, chores et al. Concentrating becomes so much tougher when you are staying with others who have a different daily rhythm.
When we are starting we might visualise our dream job to be the ultimate goal of life but while working remotely things might take a wrong turn. It has been reported that so many employees are losing interest in work and feel like robots rather than human beings. This also hampers their creative output.
Socialisation is at the core of human experience. Lack of social connection and humanness around them can cause workers to experience isolation and in extreme cases, it may reach the level of anxiety and depression.
Blurred lines between personal and professional life
Generally, we identify home as a place of relaxation and rejuvenation. In the work from home scene, employees have reported that they usually subconsciously slip into a comfort zone of mind and find themselves resting more frequently. This leads to an extended work day where the work drags and little gets done. It’s so easy to lose discipline when there’s TV and music and family around.
Fortunately, we have solutions for these problems and they’re not complicated at all. Here are 5 simple tips to help you manage your expanding remote teams better.
Daily check-ins, just like an office evening report can help you deal with overload. Set daily targets for the employees and track the progress by the end of the day. The more organised you are, the easier it becomes to monitor the team remotely. This will help tackle the problem of limited supervision from seniors and increase coordination within the team.
Social interaction; Virtual meetups
Virtually, it's too straightforward to just talk about work and without knowing your team members more personally. Social interaction becomes more difficult with newly hired employees.
Conducting virtual meetups periodically during office hours for non-work socializing can help mitigate this issue. Try to use video as much as possible. Platforms like Google meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype have made video conferencing such a breeze. Use these sessions to ask your employees about their family, any pressing problems, and understand their motivations. Build rapport and demonstrate that you care for them.
And if you have connectivity issues, fix them, don't use them as an excuse. It’s no longer an acceptable alibi.
Use technology to be productive
Technology has truly become one of our best friends through the pandemic so why not explore it more? Today there are so many tools out there that help employees work collaboratively even when working-from-anywhere (WFA). Not only do they get to work together on a project in real-time, these tools also help teams stay on top of project deadlines.
Time tracking apps help in tracking working hours and maintain discipline in remote teams.
Be organised but flexible
You can reduce stress from both sides – managers & employees - if you clarify the expectations and performance evaluation standards. Discuss KRAs with your team members for each project and set clear objectives regarding
- Work schedules
- Calendar and deadlines
- Goals and vision
- Performance and feedback
Don't forget to let them know that they can improvise and report any observations they make while working on the project. This will help them perform better next time and will keep the project on track. This is a the best way to avoid miscommunication and nasty surprises closer to the project deadline.
Emphasise communication (both listening and speaking)
When working remotely, you & your team cannot talk over lunch or have a daily task report, so you need to devise new ways for the same. In virtual mode, nonverbal cues are mostly absent. To fill this gap, start the culture of "one-on-one" calls. Encourage communication; both speaking and listening at every level of organisation.
Nurture the listening culture.
You can use your enterprise project management software or simple email and video conferencing to keep communication and relationships in sync.
Even when you work remotely, try to meet at least once in person. The more sensitive you become as a manager the more you will prepare your employees for the remote future.
Also, don't generalise work from home problems. They may vary from person to person.
For some it might be the kids playing in the background, for some, it could be the eye strain, for some it may be the differing time zones, for some it could be connectivity issues. Identify individual problems and help your team solve them with personalized solutions.
Finally, keep experimenting with new tech and new strategies to stay in touch and find out what suits you and your employees the best.
Till then, happy learning!!
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