When we look back, aside from the global pandemic, 2020 will be remembered as the year we took the plunge into remote work. Spurred on by the lockdowns and quarantines that kept us confined to our homes, employers and employees alike have become accustomed to the new set-up. Put simply: the world of remote work is here to stay.
However, for managers, this rapid and unprecedented change presents new challenges. Priorly, managing required a hands-on skillset, being immersed in their teams and their activities, managers were able to monitor progress and productivity.
In this new online world, managers will need to develop a whole new method of managing to help make remote work a success for their teams. Here are a few ideas on how to start.
What are the challenges?
First of all, we need to establish the primary challenges of remote work. Multiple different issues can arise, with each team being unique; however, there are some commonalities.
– New tools to be mastered and used.
– Communication being restricted.
– Prevention of the free flow of information.
– Social and work isolation.
– A lack of teamwork and cooperation.
– Unclear instructions or understanding regarding roles, responsibilities, and protocols.
Use the tools available
Almost all the tools we previously relied upon to help aid our meetings and work-life have been replicated for the virtual world. Mastering these tools and knowing when to use them will help teams work more effectively.
Two pieces of software will form the spine of the work experience: cloud storage and virtual conferencing. The first allows information to be accessed by anyone, anywhere. The second will enable people to speak either through web chats or via video calls.
Video conferencing has become increasingly common in recent years, with a range of features available. Virtual whiteboards can be used to sketch out ideas. While screen sharing allows anyone in a meeting to show their screen: useful for demonstrating work.
Meanwhile, there are handy add-ons, such as virtual backgrounds. These replace your home backdrop using green screen technology. To access virtual backgrounds for zoom, check out Hello Backgrounds. They have a range of hundreds of different HD photos and videos that will turn your cluttered home into a professional office or boardroom.
Create a culture of collaboration
Once you’ve got the hang of the tools; it’s time to put them to work.
Devoid of the social interactions and proximity of an office, there’s a natural tendency for people to isolate. Such behaviours can create several challenges. Some workers may begin to feel lonely, suffering from a lack of ‘belonging’, leading to the increased likelihood they will leave the company. Additionally, if people aren’t talking and cooperating, the information and ideas aren’t being shared. Jobs can end up taking twice as long.
In new starters, this can be particularly troubling, as they rely on a more experienced colleague to show them the ropes. For them, asking a simple question becomes a daunting prospect. No one wants to interrupt someone amid a complicated task.
Therefore, the manager must nurture a culture of cooperation. There should be an expectation that everyone is available to assist each other. As the manager, you can lead by example, having an open-door policy for all workers, especially new starters.
Host sessions where people raise any significant problems they’ve been having. More often than not, someone else has previously been in the same situation and knows the fix. Emphasise that no one is alone; they might be separated, but they’re still a team.
Regularly speak to each other
Frequent communication is critical. For the managers, this can take two forms. Firstly, managers can organise big team meetings. Here people can express larger group concerns about elements of the team and the new system which aren’t working. You can discuss solutions, and people can ask each other for help.
It also creates a moment for social interaction. Have some fun on the virtual whiteboard with a game of Pictionary or Hangman. Or chat amongst yourselves, enjoying some classic office banter.
Have clear instructions
Creating a set of clear and concise instructions for the completion of specific tasks will stop the need for continually asking questions of one another. For instance, when to send certain emails, how to complete a particular data processing task, or where and how files are saved can all be useful guides, particularly for new employees.
Save this information in a folder in the cloud storage, so that everyone has constant access to these vital pieces of information.
Most of all, embrace the change. There’s no point lamenting the workplace revolution. The teams that will thrive will be the ones who adapt the fastest to the new setting. Such change offers fantastic opportunities for employees’ work-life balance if only managers can rise to the challenge. Good luck!