Change is difficult, and the same is true in this situation. Many people are working remotely for the first time, away from co-workers and friends, and this has caused significant amounts of physical and mental stress that negatively impacts productivity. Now more than ever, our mental health must remain a primary consideration, keeping in mind that social distancing should not equate to social isolation.
In these rapidly changing times, the ideal strategy for work would have been a gradual transition into remote work. Still, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic certainly did not give room for any of that to occur. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based activities that managers can employ to increase engagement and boost the productivity of their employees in remote working environments.
Common Challenges of Remote Work
Challenges common in remote work are:
1. Absence of face-to-face supervision:
On the other hand, some workers may struggle with reduced access to managerial support and training. In addition, employees may feel that, in some cases, employers are out of touch with their needs and thereby are neither supportive nor helpful in getting their work done.
2. Absence of access to information:
3. Social isolation:
4. Distractions at the remote offices:
However, this is easier said than done. In the wake of the pandemic, there is a greater chance that workers will have suboptimal workspaces and face unexpected parenting responsibilities. This will lead to greater distractions than usual, so adequate leeway should be given to accommodate these challenges.
How Employers Can Support Remote Employees
1. Information on appropriate social distancing:
2. Provision of different communication technology options:
There are other circumstances when collaboration is essential. For these kinds of situations, workers can use mobile-friendly individual messaging apps like Zoom & Slack for simpler and formal conversations and time-sensitive communications.
If your company does not have these technologies already set up, there are affordable ways to obtain simple types of these tools for your workers as a short-term fix. Do not forget to consult with your IT department to ensure an appropriate level of data security before implementing any of these tools.
3. Use of cloth face coverings:
A cloth facemask will reduce the spread of the virus should any of the workers have it. It will also reduce the number of respiratory droplets that a worker will spread while talking or sneezing.
NB: While a cloth face covering is essential, employers should note that this does not replace PPE, such as medical face masks or respirators.
4. Ergonomic workstation set-up:
Recreating your workspace is the key to staying productive. Employees must make sure that their workspace is as comfortable as possible. Items that will be frequently used should be kept nearby to avoid too much stretching and straining.
For employees who will be using work equipment in a remote workspace, a picture of their workspace sent to the employer can help ensure a safe space.
Employers should provide their employees with the resources they need to set up the ergonomic workspace, such as using a rolling chair with back support and monitors placed 20-30 inches from the face. Employees should also use the 20/20/20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at an object twenty feet away for 20 seconds.
5. Exercise daily:
Employers should encourage their employers to stretch their legs and stay active while working remotely. Alarms can be set to take breaks or to stretch the body. Doing simple stretches during your workday will help you stay relaxed and prevent overexertion injuries.
Employees should keep a work routine when working remotely. They should create a clear distinction between work and home; they should avoid doing home chores during work time.
6. Putting safety first:
7. Mental health and wellbeing:
Employers can help their employees maintain their mental health by making sure they keep up with their healthy routines, staying in touch with them, and offering words of encouragement and support. They can also be of help to their employees by ensuring they eat and rest well.
Remote Work Strategy
As pandemic restrictions are lifted, company leaders will have to decide on how to achieve an optimal remote work strategy. Unlike the reactive action that happened suddenly in early 2020, the next line of actions must be intentional and proactive.
Recent research showed that nearly one-third of US executives described their approach to post-pandemic remote working as "going with the flow."
Rather than shifting operations back to normal or simply going with the flow, leaders need to think about how they can leverage recent remote work experiences to intentionally plan for a remote or hybrid workforce in the future. They will have to think strategically about their remote work policies and plans moving forward. Now is the time to start planning, whether you manage a large company or head a small team.
According to research, executive education suggests that leaders' major decisions will fall into two main categories: Company Policies and Management Practices.
1. What is the right combination of remote working for your organization?
To determine the best policy for your company, employers must consider the following factors:
- Nature of work:
Individual tasks that do not need collaboration or coordination are ideal for remote work. Activities and roles that need high cooperation are also successful remotely, but it will require significant effort from all the team members. Obviously, there are some roles that cannot be carried out remotely, so concessions will need to be made for those in terms of on-site work.
- Experience level of the workers:
New workers or those who have been promoted recently benefit from an initial period in the office to build a relationship with fellow workers and gain the required knowledge that will be easily absorbed in the workplace. As such, virtual orientation sessions or on-site retreats will be needed if the workforce is primarily remote, continuous, and frequent.
- Preferences of the Employees:
Choices of the individual worker must be taken into consideration, given the differences in personalities and preferences for remote work. Some employees may indicate preferences now; as work settings and patterns normalize, those conversations can be revisited.
2. Are you ready to consider working from anywhere (WFA) policy?
Research on WFA suggests that allowing geographical flexibility to your employees will enable them to pursue bigger life goals. In addition, this flexibility will increase employee productivity relative to Work From Home (WFH) conditions.
Considerations for WFA include competitive recruitment of highly sought-after employees and the potential for an increased talent pool. In addition, company leaders must decide how best to take advantage of asynchronous work in a WFA environment while managing to schedule and work coordination issues.
3. How can you maintain a strong company culture?
Recommendations for sustaining this culture in a virtual environment include special lunches to build and share experiences, pulse check surveys to check whether the shared values are coming across to employees, and lastly, intentional communication about programs and meetings that are important to the organization.
4. Which HR policies must be updated?
Recruiting strategies will have to focus on new skills and competencies for potential candidates, such as initiative-taking, effective virtual communication, and self-motivation. In addition, compensation plans such as adjusting salaries for working from home and scaling pay relative to geographic offices are vital to consider.
For example, Twitter and Facebook recently announced that they would adjust the pay of workers that choose to move away from their headquarters to areas with a lower cost of living.
Benefit programs must be adjusted to reflect the shift from traditional on-site benefits to remote options.
5. What new training will be offered?
A recent survey showed that 64% of executives plan to invest in training leaders to manage more virtual workforce. However, research was conducted, and it showed that only 30% of the company executives trained their leaders in virtual work skills.
Companies also need to provide training on relational skills known to enhance remote working productivity. This includes: building trust, effective virtual communication patterns, establishing work values, and incorporating social elements into virtual work relationships.
In addition to all these, companies must incorporate strategies to handle training on managing hybrid workers as it will be valuable in maintaining equity between remote and on-site employees.
Managers should think about these questions as part of the transition to a longer-term remote workforce:
1. How can you foster a healthy remote work condition?
Organizational climate is different from culture. Climate is the perceptions employees have about their workplace. An effective tool is a leader-supported declaration or expectations related to remote work from the organization.
For example, when the pandemic first started, IBM employees created "a work from home pledge" that specified company norms such as how to communicate while working remotely. Similar leader-led statements significantly impact the remote work climate that evolves post-pandemic.
2. How can you help employees manage competing work and life priorities?
There are several types of boundaries that leaders can help employees establish. This includes having a dedicated workspace, finding the optimal time to work, and relational and interpersonal boundaries.
3. How to create a sense of psychological safety?
Psychological safety is paramount in remote working, and this can be increased when employers: Check-in on them, share experiences and let employees try out new ideas.
4. How can you consciously engage employees?
Repeated encounters with these people throughout the day might give you a sense of belonging, which can help you cope with the feelings of isolation that come with remote work.
According to a study of distant co-workers, a consistent communication cadence builds productive and trusting working relationships. In addition, managers can help employees develop a sense of routine by utilizing meetings as occasions for them to socialize and form personalized relationships by exchanging songs, images, or entertaining facts.
In addition, leaders might build team collaboration procedures. Creating a single attitude for distributed and digital teams fosters a sense of shared identity and understanding. Like team development in typical office environments, this can be built by creating team goals, providing a common knowledge context, and articulating the team's purpose.
Virtual coffee conversations and remote office hours, for example, should be maintained as events to link in-office and remote workers in the future proactively.
5. How can you nurture employee trust and accountability?
Employers can use technology to define and maintain goals and objectives for desired outcomes and receive feedback on those goals to solve this problem. In addition, they should establish touch points throughout the year to assist people in developing professionally and building accountability. These technologies are not utilized to track employee presence; instead, they are used to exchange information and guide employees.
Now is the moment to reflect on what you and your staff have learned over the last year. It is also a time to use your new knowledge and experience to design your ideal future workplace.
2. A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers.
3. How to Manage the Performance of Remote Workers - Full Guide.
4. What Is Your Organization's Long-Term Remote Work Strategy?