Remote work, flexible schedules, and at-home workers have been on the rise in the job market over the last few years. The choice to work from home comes with benefits such as cutting out the commute time and reduced distractions. However, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, working from has become more of a necessity than a choice.
Whether you have already been managing teams remotely or are new to it, we have some tips to help you polish your skills and improve the experience for both yourself as a manager and for your team.
1. Remember that they are still a team.
Work from home agents enjoy a lot of autonomy, and this is indeed one of the draws of this type of work. But the fact that they are not spending a lot of time together doesn’t negate the fact that they are still a team. A lot of team dynamics develop in the downtime between work, such as on lunch breaks or making coffee in the kitchen. It is important for a manager to foster team bonding even with remote workers.
According to research workers are less understanding of each other when they have no knowledge of what is going on in each other’s lives. Keep up with birthdays and leave time after meetings for members to share about none work-related activities. Zoom parties have become a thing that your team might be interested in. These activities help to maintain and grow team cohesion
2. Set up the right communication tools.
The right communication tools are the backbone of managing work from home agents. For the best experience, you should use a combination of tools instead of relying on one method alone. Email should be augmented with video, text and audio calls. Video communication provides the face-to-face contact needed to relay particular types of information. Because it is tricky to convey tone with text, a lot can get lost in translation with this type of communication.
With several tools, you can choose the most appropriate for a specific message. IM might be suitable for urgent communication while email might be best when it comes to sharing instructions that need to be followed in sequence.
Team members need to be able to communicate easily and get the information they need to work. Since they can no longer walk to another’s desk to pick up a particular document or ask a question, it is crucial to implement virtual shared folders where everyone can put information that everyone else needs to get their work done.
3. Encourage boundaries.
Work from home agents can end up feeling like they are always ‘on call’. While the goal is to make sure your team can communicate with you as easily as possible, there should be boundaries in place that prevent employees from walking into your virtual office at any time of the day.
One of those could be establishing an out to lunch policy, even if out to lunch is just in the next room. Just be sure to give them the option to reach you via phone call in case of an urgent need.
Boundaries go both ways. Managers too should respect the boundaries of their teams and account for time zones when communicating with teams in different geographical areas.
4. Clock out.
One of the dangers of working from home is finding yourself working extra long hours without actually planning to do so. Since you don’t have to leave and go home, the hours can get away from you, leaving you working deep into the night. Both work from home agents and their managers can be victims of this.
A robust timesheet software can be helpful. With it in place, you can identify workers who are putting in longer hours than usual and figure how to help them find a balance.
While extra hours might seem like a plus in the short run, ignoring personal lives can lead to burn out and negatively affect productivity in the long run.
Timesheets will also give you insight into work from home agents who are falling short of their deliverables, and help you set up a plan to support them as well.
5. Offer support.
If remote work is new for you and your team then you need to provide a lot of support. It can be disorienting so account for the fact that there will be an adjustment period for them and you. Put in the time to interact with each team member to find out their unique experience and challenges.
You should also consider leveraging remote team training software to create lessons and practice scenarios for your work from home agents. This way they can gain the clarity, training, and enablement they need to keep up with the change and uncertainty that often accompanies working away from the office. By gaining experience with this online training, they will be more prepared to handle any unforeseen circumstances that arise in the course of their work.
If new to it, it might take some time to get managing work from home agents right. With these tips, managers can offer their teams the support they need without compromising their own output and schedules.
About the Author | Chloe Sesta Jacobs
Chloe’s why is people; she gets her kicks from intensifying the purpose and exploring the potential of those around her. She works as Head of People & Culture at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Chloe sees her work as an extension of her lifestyle and is constantly working on revolutionizing the people and culture space.