Remote workers poses management challenges
COVID-19 forced many employees to work remotely whether or not it was an accepted practice in their organizations before the pandemic.
Some people discovered they were happier and more productive working from home and would love to continue doing so indefinitely. Others discovered they hated working remotely and couldn’t (or can’t) get back to the office fast enough.
If it’s possible for a company to give employees the option of continuing to work remotely long term, the result may be hybrid teams of remote and on-site associates. Here are some tips to help you manage a hybrid team:
1. Pretend everyone is remote. Use video conferencing for meetings even if only one member of the team is remote. That means everyone uses their own device to connect rather than having in-office workers meeting in person and connecting virtually with remote employees only, which often results in the in-person group forgetting the remote associates are even part of the meeting.
2. Make sure everyone has what they need. Maybe everyone fled the office in haste thinking they’d be back in a few weeks. When it’s safe for people to go back, make sure those who plan to continue working from home long term have the same equipment as in-house employees.
3. Define clear working hours and share calendars. When everyone was in the office, employees could look around and see who was available for a brainstorming session. If some workers are remote, all workers should keep an up-to-date online calendar. Even if a remote worker is a night owl, it’s fine to insist he or she keep “regular business hours” in order to be available to the team (or customers) instead of working at 3 a.m. Keeping everyone’s hours in sync may be more challenging if you have employees in different time zones, however.
4. Discourage “us and them” thinking. Don’t allow negative attitudes about the “other” group to develop. For example, don’t let office-based staff speculate that remote team members don’t work as hard or have an easier working experience. Encourage a culture of support and respect for the entire team.
5. Modify team building, but don’t forget about it. If your remote employees are in the area, scheduling in-person get togethers (while maintaining social distancing) is fine. However, if your remote workers are scattered, keep team building online.
6. Make sure learning opportunities are available for all. Consider how training will look when some associates cannot be in the classroom. Do you want training to remain a scheduled group experience using tools that allow for discussion, or will you allow remote workers to complete online training whenever it’s most convenient for them?
7. Consider how your recruiting is affected. If you advertise positions as possibly remote, that option opens your jobs up to the entire world. However, you must make sure during the interview process that applicants who want to work remotely are well suited for that type of arrangement.
8. Keep a few workstations open for visitors. Even the most dedicated remote employees may want or need to visit the office occasionally. Make them feel welcome by keeping a few “hoteling” stations reserved for visiting remote workers.
9. Make perks fair for all. Office-based rewards that remote workers are unable to partake in, such as catered lunches or on-site exercise classes, can be demotivating. Consider giving remote workers alternatives that are roughly equivalent to those that on-site employees receive. If you are providing lunch for your team, send remote workers a food delivery or gift cards to use for takeout. If you are providing an in-office class on healthy eating, livestream it.
10. Communicate company-wide information. It is easy for remote employees to feel isolated, not only from their immediate team members, but from the company as a whole. Share information about decisions, goals, and strategic direction.
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