Working remotely is a relatively new concept in the professional world. Thanks to advancing technology, employees now have the option of having a career in the non-traditional sense and, therefore, have a more flexible lifestyle.
Remote work is a working style that allows professionals to their tasks outside of the traditional office environment.
A remote employee is either an in-house hire or a freelancer employed by a company. Before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there were already millions of employees working remotely. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the workforce.
Studies have shown that remote workers are more productive than their on-site colleagues and more likely to be happy because of the flexible work locations and working hours. Studies have also shown that this set-up helps companies lower their operating costs.
Companies and jobs that allow remote working include computer programming, customer service, virtual assistants, teaching or tutoring, freelance writing, and back-office outsourcing, among others.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how work is done today, with companies shifting to a work-from-home set-up or remote working to keep their businesses afloat. The number of remote employees grew.
With the new year fast approaching and the future still uncertain, companies are opting to continue working remotely to curb the spread of the deadly virus. Companies are pushing forward, adapting to digital means to run their businesses, manage their staff, and other functions.
Understanding remote management
Working remotely has become an alternative way for many companies to stay afloat while in the middle of the pandemic. Work-from-home presents advantages and disadvantages for the employee and their employers, as well as opportunities for new technologies and more efficient system.
One of the things companies are doing today to have a semblance of an organized system still with their employees is remote management.
Remote management is one-way companies can run their businesses while still working from home. It refers to overseeing business and coordinating teams and employees working from home or across the globe whose progress needs to be tracked and where close coordination is necessary. This can be done through programs, applications, and new technologies that are now readily available.
However, this is not to say that there are no challenges to remote management and work. In fact, there are several challenges when it comes to remote working and remote management, such as:
Since most employees are working from home, distractions are aplenty, making it hard for them to separate their work from their responsibilities to their families and home.
Distractions could come in the form of kids walking up to important meetings or making noises. Appliances like television and streaming devices also pose as a distraction.
2. No or lack of face-to-face communication
Unlike traditional work set-up, remote working means communicating with colleagues via digital means such as emails.
Some managers are worried that their employees may not perform as well compared to direct communication, while other employees may have trouble getting managerial support and communication.
3. Limited access to information
Similarly, obtaining answers or information can be challenging to employees, mostly if they are used to getting these so quickly from their superiors or new to working from home.
One of the joys some employees have when working in an office setting is social interaction with their colleagues. The lack of this may cause some employees to suffer from isolation or loneliness.
There are conflicting studies when it comes to the productivity of remote employees.
They may not be as productive at home compared to when in the office because not everyone has the self-discipline needed to work efficiently, especially when no eyes are watching their every move.
6. Security risks
Working remotely means being able to work anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.
In an office setting, the internet connection is secured from cyberattacks and other security risks, but not at home or anywhere else. Some companies have security protocols, which is why they provide their employees with laptops and other equipment.
7. Lack of proper equipment
Meanwhile, some employees do not have their own computers at home and rely on the ones provided by their employers at the office.
Some companies provide their employees with the needed equipment, while some can or do not. The employee may be forced to buy their own equipment, either brand new or refurbished laptops.
8. Internet connectivity issues
Not all areas have strong internet connectivity, which is a common problem for most remote-based professionals and digital nomads, as unreliable internet connection affects productivity.
9. Disconnect from work
Many remote workers have a problem with unplugging from work when they’re not in the office. This can affect their health if they work beyond the allotted hours.
10. Scheduling difficulties
Scheduling is especially difficult for international companies due to different time zones. Finding a time that works well for everyone will also be challenging.
Best practices for remote management
Managing a remote team is challenging, with or without the pandemic. For these issues to be addressed, management must follow remote management best practices to lead successfully.
1. Have daily check-ins
Conduct either one-on-one or team virtual calls. It is best to schedule these before the start of the work hours. During these calls, reassure your team members that it is a safe space and that they can raise their concerns or ask questions and that they can consult with their team leaders freely.
2. Create communication channels
Use work chat apps and other communication tools so that you and your team have a streamlined communication, making problem-solving and collaborating easier and more efficient.
The transition to remote communication removes any personal context. Email alone is insufficient and too formal to ask for assistance or communicate with your colleagues. Video conferencing tools are advantageous for critical, complex, or sensitive conversations and meetings. For quick collaborations, messaging apps that are mobile-enabled are best.
3. Get the most out of remote work tools
Do your research and know which applications offer the best system when it comes to work tools. These tools will become your virtual office, and every member of the team must be familiarized with them. These tools will also allow you to track your employees’ progress. Be open to adjusting strategies as needed.
4. Provide opportunities for remote social interaction
To fill the void of social interactions, and avoid feelings of isolation among colleagues, create opportunities for team members to interact with one another socially and virtually.
Have a virtual office party, send care packages, or have food delivered to their homes. Not only do these parties help reduce feelings of isolation, but they also help lessen feelings of stress and pressure from work.
5. Offer encouragement and emotional support
The pandemic has increased the stress, fear, and anxieties of people, including employees. It is essential to acknowledge these, listen to their concerns, and empathize with their struggles.
If some team members are not vocal about their struggles with mental health, look for signs if they are struggling or ask them how they are doing. Ensure that you understand them correctly. Make sure that, as a manager, your own needs are looked after, as well.
6. Provide guidelines and boundaries
Establish rules of engagement. Let team members know the best way and time to reach you. At the same time, outline each team members’ availability to ensure that you can contact them when needed.
Provide clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals, and more, but resist the urge to micromanage. Help team members maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout and other stress-related symptoms.
7. Celebrate success and good work
Acknowledge good work and the efforts made by the employees. Give shout-outs, have food delivered, send a card or note, or have a virtual celebration with the team.
Recognizing good work, giving praise, and thanking your employees will do wonders for their own confidence and in their work and motivates them to continue doing a good job.
Remote Management: Looking beyond the work requirements
Thanks to the advancing technology that revolutionizes how people work today, managing remote employees, optimizing work processes, and enhancing security is now more attainable. When it comes to remote work, it is the company’s and the manager’s responsibility to ensure that their employees feel that they are still part of the company and that they are valued.
It is also their responsibility to create an environment where the employers and managers can support their employees, promote transparency, and grow and collaborate collectively. Aside from providing employees with a supportive environment, they also need to give them the right tools and equipment in order to work efficiently and effectively.
This is an incredibly stressful time with an uncertain future. Effective leaders must acknowledge that employees are also stressed and anxious, triggered by both their work and what is going on in the world today.
Despite the difficult circumstances everyone is facing, by providing affirmations and a positive work environment, both the company and the employees can survive the pandemic together and take up other challenges with a renewed focus.
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Valerie Chua is a Content Specialist at Manila Recruitment, a company providing headhunting solutions for the recruitment of executive, expert, technical and specialist positions in the Philippines. Follow Manila Recruitment on Twitter @MNLrecruitment or connect with them on LinkedIn.