Although some employers had already learned how to effectively manage remotely working employees prior to the pandemic, the majority had never been forced to allow most or all their workers to complete assigned tasks in this manner. Fortunately, as the year 2020 began passing by, human resource experts began discovering and refining new ways for companies to better manage such workers. These new approaches can help more workers gain the skills they need to produce quality work — while not feeling isolated or robbed of all necessary input.
Recent surveys indicate that while far too many young workers are now unemployed due to the pandemic – others who still have jobs and work remotely are feeling anxious, depressed, and burnt out. At this time, all employees must develop new coping mechanisms to keep their work life at home separate from their family’s needs and a variety of other new concerns.
Savvy employers now realize that they must help their workers stay focused and feel like they are part of a team – so they can remain creative and timely complete their projects.
Here are some useful tips to help your company better manage your remote force so they can remain productive – while still meeting new customer demands as they develop.
Remote workers need a strong sense of structure and connected support to succeed
- Be flexible and supportive as employees provide you with their preferred work schedules. News headlines keep reminding us that some parents have been forced to reduce their work hours to care for their children during the pandemic. This often means they can only put in day or night hours; other workers may have tested positive for COVID-19 and need to work reduced hours. Each company must be prepared to have private talks with all their employees to properly gauge their ability to keep working.
- Schedule one-on-one face time with each employee regarding work output expectations. Wait and schedule these individual meetings after you have figured out the realistic work goals for each person. You might start by making a list of the specific tasks that should be completed each day of the week. If you have remote workers handling the exact same duties as others who are once again working in a company office, be sure to require equal productivity.
- Always carefully track the weekly work output of each employee. Consider checking in with each worker when productivity starts falling off. Be prepared to ask if the person needs new work resources or if they need other help – politely noting that they appear to be turning in fewer completed projects – or contacting fewer new potential customers.
- Schedule regular online, video meetings to keep all workers feeling connected. Be sure everyone knows that they must attend (and will be paid for their time), even if it falls outside their regular work schedule. Always try to keep the meetings relatively short and let everyone know if there are any important work policy changes.
If one team of workers has been uniquely productive, you might note that everyone is still doing good work—especially Team X. It is important to praise deserving workers, while also helping everyone feel strongly connected to each other – even when they are all still working from home.
- Establish clear communication standards and expectations. Always let your workers know different sets of hours when supervisors and work managers can be contacted for added support or input. Encourage workers to provide you with scheduled updates so you can know if they need new input from you – or additional guidance. You should also create fixed standards about the hours each worker can be offline or unavailable to respond to company emails or phone calls. This can be crucial to diminishing employee burn out.
Whenever possible, when good work is being done, thank individual employees for their trustworthy output and helpfulness. Also, be sure to add links at the bottom of all emails to your company’s online (or hard copy) employee handbooks regarding work standards, employee reviews, and various employee benefit programs.
- Be ready to hear complaints about how projects are being assigned/evaluated — or employees are being managed. While respectful interactions are always important, let workers know that if they cannot meet their deadlines, you encourage them to call and discuss their concerns with you. It may also be useful to conduct anonymous surveys with workers, asking how certain aspects of their jobs might be better managed – or if they need added time most weeks for all they are being asked to do.
Whenever it is deserved, be sure to offer positive feedback to every worker, naming which specific assignments were handled exceptionally well. Likewise, if a worker is consistently turning in poor work quality, you must note these problems in your records, and schedule one or more private face-time meetings to discuss what is going on – before every trying to fire someone.
- Find creative ways for employees to collaborate on projects. Since many people need a bit more human interaction during the pandemic, try arranging for workers to help each other with projects. This really can lift people’s spirits and improve their sense of connection to your company. You might also consider creating a mentoring program for new employees, so they will be able to contact you and more senior workers for feedback as they complete their first projects. Be sure to match up employees with the same work schedules.
- On at least a bi-weekly basis, remind workers if your company directly provides any type of support for personal counseling or therapy. If your business does not provide these types of resources, at least post an obvious link on your main website, directing employees to community programs where individual counseling and daily living resources can be obtained. Many working families are struggling now to pay their rent since one spouse may have been laid off – or forced to quit a job to act as the main caregiver of the family’s children (or dependent, aging relatives).
Please feel free to contact one of our Murray Lobb attorneys. Once we create a formal working relationship, our firm can provide you with the critical legal advice you require for all your business, corporate, or estate planning needs. We are also available to draft the various contracts and other documents you need while conducting your daily business activities.