For many people, the working world has changed dramatically in the last two years or so. The coronavirus pandemic and its lockdowns showed us what was possible – some businesses carried on as usual with distancing measures in place, others send everyone home in March 2020 and it was many months before they returned to the office.
Some are only just getting back to normal now, and some have decided that working from home is the way forward. For others, hybrid working, where employees spend some of the weeks in the office and some days at home, is seen as the way forward.
There are, of course, benefits for both the employer and the employees – but only if the new way of working is managed correctly and measures are put in place to both ensure the person working remotely is happy and that the business maintains productivity, and efficiency and employee satisfaction.
So, what are the main points to remember if you are managing people who are working at home?
Communicate the big picture to the employees involved but remember that both sides must be flexible. See how everyone’s work fits into that vision and consider whether any adjustments need to be made if some members of the team cannot carry out their usual duties at home.
Try to reach a point of agreement about how you will work remotely, but still work together. Interaction between the team is important, but be clear about how that will be achieved, how they will keep one another, and you, updated and how frequently.
Trust your team. Be clear about expectations but try to leave them to get on with that without micromanaging. Working from home is about flexibility, and focusing on results, not time spent at the desk.
Ensure everyone has the support and equipment they need. It could be that additional training might be needed, or that work tasks are redistributed depending on an employee’s circumstances. Keep calendars visible, including the management teams and make it clear that someone is always available to help and support if needed.
Get ‘together’ regularly. This is essential for keeping connected as a team and reassuring everyone that processes and workflow are on track. Use this time to replace the routine office interaction – just ask someone how they are or how their weekend was, just as you might if you were passing their desk in the office.
Remember that remote working means reduced opportunities to pick up information in passing. Share as much relevant information from other meetings, projects and departments as is appropriate and ask your team to do the same.
Consider that some people are more sensitive to feeling left out when they are not physically with a group. If they are feeling isolated or anxious reassurance can go a long way to set their mind at rest. Make sure you communicate praise and thanks as often as you go to them with issues.
Body language or tone of voice can be lost when communicating remotely. If you are finding it difficult to be clear about what people are thinking or feeling, do not just let it pass. Think about what is being said, what is not being said, and how a person sounds or looks, then carefully word questions that might help address any problems.
Keep the team together. It is not just about communication with you as a leader. Encourage relationships between employees and instigate social conversations. Online quizzes worked wonders during the lockdown, try to keep that going even though people are not ‘stuck at home anymore. A team working remotely might find it more difficult to build the rapport and ease of communication that happens in the office, but it is important for team building and to support anyone who is feeling isolated.
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