Remote work has become an essential part of work-life due to the pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to pivot from traditional work structures to remote work, and for some businesses, remote work was never given much consideration. However, remote work had been gaining popularity among some employees for a few years before the outbreak.
There are many benefits of remote work, such as increased productivity, improved work-life balance, and reduced overheads. Despite this, remote work has a unique set of challenges that must be addressed. Managing a team that is dispersed across multiple geographic locations is challenging, and managers play a vital role in creating a remote work culture that is successful and in supporting their employees during this challenging time.
In this article, we will discuss strategies that managers can use to make remote work productive and supportive for their team. We will also discuss the benefits and challenges of remote work, the tools and technology available to support remote work, and how managers can create a successful remote work culture.
Benefits of Remote Work
Remote work has many benefits for both employers and employees. Here are some of the key benefits of remote work:
Increased Productivity: Remote workers have fewer distractions and can avoid time-consuming commutes to a physical office. This leads to increased productivity, with remote workers reporting that they are more productive when working from home.
Improved Work-Life Balance: Remote work enables employees to balance their work and personal life. Reducing the stress of balancing work and life can boost employee productivity, improve their quality of life, and reduce burnout.
Reduced Overheads: Remote work eliminates the cost of leasing or owning a physical office, electricity expenses, and other indirect costs associated with maintaining an office. This leads to reduced overheads for employers and cost savings for employees.
Improved Employee Retention: Remote work increases job satisfaction for employees, leading to higher employee retention rates. In a study by FlexJobs, 82% of remote workers stated that they are less likely to quit their job due to the flexibility of remote work.
Challenges of Remote Work
Although there are many benefits to remote work, there are also challenges. Some of the significant challenges of remote work include:
Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction: Remote work can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for remote workers. This can negatively impact their mental health and work performance.
Communication Issues: Communication is a critical aspect of successful remote work. Employees must have reliable communication systems to communicate with their team and managers. Communication issues can cause delays in projects and negatively impact team collaboration.
Lack of Accountability: Remote work can make it difficult for managers to track employee progress and ensure that they are completing their work. This can create a lack of accountability and lead to a decrease in productivity.
Difficulty in Building Team Culture: Building a team culture is challenging in remote work, and it requires managers to be proactive in creating and maintaining a positive team culture.
Tools and Technology to Support Remote Work
Technology plays a critical role in making remote work successful. A variety of tools and technologies are available to support remote work. Here are some examples of tools that have been used to support remote work:
Collaboration Tools: Collaboration tools such as Asana, Trello, Slack, and Microsoft Teams allow teams to stay in constant communication and provide transparency in project work.
Video Conferencing: Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype make it possible to hold virtual meetings and maintain face-to-face communication with remote workers.
Cloud Storage: Cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive allow remote workers to access important files from any location.
Task Management Tools: Task management tools like Todoist, Wunderlist, and Evernote help remote workers to manage and ensure accountability for their tasks.
Project Management Tools: Project management tools like Basecamp, Jira, and Asana provide a centralized management location for project work, ensuring everyone is aligned with organizational goals, projects, and activities.
How Managers Can Make Remote Work Successful and Support their Employees
Managing a remote team can be challenging, given the different challenges faced. However, with clear planning, communication, and flexibility, remote work can be highly productive and successful. Here are some strategies that managers can use to make remote work productive and supportive for their team:
Develop a communication plan that works for everyone
Communication is key to effective remote work. Managers should develop a communication plan that caters to the needs of their remote team. It is essential to communicate regularly, ensuring everyone is informed, and aligned with organizational goals, projects, and activities. Scheduling regular video conferencing meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and team collaboration is encouraged to keep everyone connected. Managers can also use communication tools and platforms like chat rooms, instant messaging, and emails to ensure constant communication.
Set clear expectations and goals
Setting expectations is essential for the success of remote work. Managers should outline work expectations and performance goals for their remote team. Clear and concise communication of expectations and goals makes it easier for remote workers to understand what is expected of them. This can be achieved by developing a work-from-home policy such as work hours, communication expectations, and key performance metrics.
Encourage and support well-being
Working remotely can often lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Managers should ensure their remote team is supported emotionally and physically to increase productivity and engagement. Encourage employees to take breaks, engage in activities that benefit mental health like meditation, and support remote team members in setting up a suitable home office.
Utilize technology to facilitate collaboration
Remote work can make collaboration difficult. Managers should consider utilizing technology to help facilitate communication and collaboration among team members. Collaboration tools like Asana, Trello, Slack, and Zoom allow teams to stay in constant communication and provide transparency in project work. Regular video calls and check-ins can create a sense of belonging and keep employee morale high.
Manage employees based on results, not just time
Remote working often creates a challenge where employees may feel overworked due to the lack of distinct work-life boundaries. In this situation, it’s essential to manage employees based on their results achieved during work hours and not time spent working. This can be done by setting clear goals, measuring productivity achieved, and supporting employees to find a work-life balance.
Create opportunities for socialization
Remote work can make employees feel disconnected from their colleagues. Managers should create opportunities for socialization and team-building activities that can help foster team spirit. Schedule regular virtual team-building activities, such as Friday happy hours, trivia nights, or even organizing teams to participate in virtual sports events can help develop a more connected team.
Offer training opportunities
Managers should provide remote workers with the same development opportunities that office workers receive. Providing training opportunities relevant to the remote position can help employees feel valued and supported. This includes areas such as virtual presentations, remote project management skills, and developing skills in remote team leadership.
Foster a culture of trust
Trust is essential for effective remote work. It is essential to build trust among remote workers and establish trust between remote workers and their managers. Creating clear communication and expectations for work is essential, and trust must be established, allowing employees to work independently in accomplishing their tasks, leading to job satisfaction and greater productivity.
Feedback is essential for successful remote work. Encourage a culture of feedback among colleagues where collaboration, accommodation to strategies, and open feedback are encouraged. Managers should welcome feedback on workplace concerns or suggestions on how to improve remote work policies or processes.
Foster opportunities for career progression
Employees often feel like they are left out of career progression while working remotely. Managers should work actively in identifying career improvement opportunities, training and development opportunities, progression and promotion opportunities, and external training. Fostering career progression opportunities and improving professional development will help employees to remain motivated and enclosed to the organization.
Remote work can be successful, given the right approach and careful planning by managers. By taking proactive measures to support employees’ well-being, communication, collaboration, and career development, managers can foster a productive remote team. While there are many challenges to remote work, with the right approach and tools, remote work can be a productive and positive experience for employers and employees alike. Effective remote work requires patience, a culture of trust, and constant communication, reminding employees that they are part of the organization and their performance counts. In this way, remote work can be a significant benefit to organizations and staff, leading to greater satisfaction, performance and productivity, while building a fulfilling career.