Quick guide to ensuring best practice for managing your workers remotely
May 20, 2020 6min read
It is predicted that by 2025 70% of the workforce will work remotely 5 days or more per month. Statistically remote working provides greater productivity per worker, however with the current Covid pandemic many employees are finding themselves working from home for the first time, often without support or guidance on how to make the most of their new remote working lifestyle. A UK survey found that most employees felt their employers had done a great job at handling the transition to remote working. But 53% of employees have said their company is not helping with support in working from home and over one third of employees are feeling intense pressure from remote working. Is the honeymoon period for remote working over?
At Brring we have been a remote workplace for over four years, and we have compiled a quick and easy guide for helping you manage your employees in the best and most supportive way possible.
Since March no offices have been the same. And we aren’t talking about missing Swingline staplers. It’s hard to have a productive meeting from the kitchen table with bored children, a roommate or partner interrupting in the background. We suggest encouraging employees to create a space at home as they would in the office. Craft a do not disturb system to inform other household members when it’s okay to come in; from stoplights to hang on the door like this creative Mum did, or something as simple as a hanger on the door to let housemates know you’re on a call. Noise cancelling headphones help blockout unwanted background noise, webcams offer better audio and video quality for those who are constantly presenting and comfy office chairs ensure proper support at the computer. These are all helpful tools for employees working from home and a combination can help make life easier and boost worker morale. Discuss with your companies finance department about creating a budget to help employees upgrade their home office.
Besides working from home, tools have changed for this new office system. Software that helps with effective project management, chat and conferencing are essential for building an effective workflow. Build a team meeting culture through daily stand-ups to help foster stronger communication. A daily stand-up is a meeting held at the same time every day. It is kept to teams of 5-10 people and team members go around the room stating the work they did the previous day, their tasks for the current day and any blockers impeding their work caused by someone or something else. Managers ensure that each person speaks for no more than 2 minutes. Each speaker does not go into the details of their task they simply provide a headline summary. Standups are used in the software industry where remote working is prevalent. They ensure everyone’s on the same page and isn’t suffering in silence or being held-up by someone or something else. Here at Brring we have team members across multiple zones which means 10am for one person is 6pm for another. To help with that we have a daily standup chat channel where we list out our previous day’s tasks, current tasks and blockers like so:
Keep everyone on the same page with a dedicated update channel
With this even if someone can’t make the standup call they always have a voice. It’s key that everyone posts everyday. Standups are non-negotiable in the software world and they are spreading into other industries so be ahead of the curve and start doing them if you are not already.
Like with email, video conferences work best when you’ve framed an agenda. Sketch your ideas and meetings out ahead of time; it is important to evaluate how your message will be understood via telephone or video call as some things get lost in translation moving from face-to-face meetings to meetings over the internet.
Be careful and respectful of everyone when having your remote meetings; avoid overlapping chatter and interrupting others. The mute button is your friend! No-one wants to hear your Darth Vader impression as you slurp your tea, crunch on a snack or clatter on the keyboard. Most annoying are late joiners – calendar invites with reminders help reduce this problem and products like Brring Conference, which text people just before a call is starting and then automatically dial everyone in – ensure your meetings start on-time, everytime.
Keeping everyone on target starts with clear communication. Establishing transparency in work hours and objectives helps eliminate a lot of stress and keeps everyone on the same page. Burn-out from employees working outside normal hours is often cited as a top criticism for remote working. Employees working from home might feel compelled to project an appearance of productivity which can cause them to focus on non-essential tasks. Clearly set out individual and team objectives in your stand-up, and avoid ambiguity by clearly defining the non-negotiable project objectives rather than clouding the agenda by listing all the nice to haves as well. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so keep each day’s goals succinct and clearly defined.
One of the biggest oversights of management is the tendency to focus on output of the individual and not the process of the work. The key to having a successful remote business is understanding and valuing the process the individual puts into the work and not just the work itself. Know the fears and vulnerabilities as well as skills and strengths of your team members. Keep in mind personal and family issues as well as working environment and how all these will factor into the output for each individual. Set up a work plan that includes discussing the pace of work as well as outlining any questions around the task. It is harder to outline the task’s objectives remotely and harder still for someone to want to pepper their boss with questions. Expect to check in more regularly with your team.
We’ve said it before and we will say it again: daily stand-ups help. Not only does it connect everyone but helps all in knowing their roles and expectations for the day. Video calls can be beneficial in helping make people feel more connected – that said don’t push everyone to turn on their webcam. Not everyone’s an outgoing social butterfly, nor does everyone have a beautiful home office they want to share – when people are working from home the employer is projecting themselves into their home – it’s important to remember that different rules apply when video calling someone at home versus the office and the rules have shifted in the current environment.
Missing those watercooler moments? At Brring we have a Friday coffee morning where we have a video meet-up with no agenda other than to discuss how we are doing. Personal anecdotes and stories help connect people when working remotely, and a culture of empathy helps everyone understand others’ viewpoints and feel connected. Virtual happy hours are another thing to try – at the end of the week a 3pm call where everyone grabs a cold drink and just chats with no agenda help foster team spirit. There are lots of things to try from company wide trivia games, to team yoga or meditation to help everyone stay relaxed and connected during these uncertain times.
Accentuate the positive
Research shows that workplace stress leads to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary turnover. The turnover costs associated with recruiting, training, loss of expertise are estimated to be approximately 20% of an employee’s salary. Remote employees are twice as likely to receive corrective feedback, however the tendency is to focus on behaviour that was not successful rather than what someone got right. Part of remote working is understanding that we are here to support each other and inspire one another. So there will be times to discuss but there also must be times to praise.
Wellbeing comes from one place: a positive work culture. Creating a positive work culture promotes collaboration, inspires creativity and encourages happier employees. As a good manager you must listen actively to employees. Ensure with all interactions that you remain approachable and positive in viewpoint. Your employees are then more likely to discuss any problems they might be facing as well as suggest creative solutions to tasks assigned. If possible, work with your companies’ HR department to learn signs of distress to help combat wellbeing issues early on. Try and make discussions with employees one-to-one, evidence based and forward looking.
Going forward, 47% of employees feel their employers will ditch remote working after the Covid pandemic, however most hope there can be a change in their companies’ remote working policies. There are many benefits associated with working remotely: a better work life balance, reduced stress, less sick days, better morale, saving of time and money (for both the employee in commuting and employer in office space) and a cleaner environment for everyone to enjoy. Use this guide to remind you of the benefits of working remotely and how to best navigate them during these rapidly changing times.