The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a permanent shift for many professionals to remote work. According to McKinsey & Company research, “about 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This represents four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic and could prompt a large change in the geography of work, as individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs and small cities.”
A March 2020 Glassdoor survey on the impact of COVID-19 revealed that 67% of respondents would support the employer’s decision to roll out indefinite work from home, and 50% expect to be equally or more productive at home as in the office. Additionally, a Buffer survey on The 2020 State of Remote Work reveals that 98% of respondents would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
Working from home is the new normal for a large segment of workers today, and remote work is poised to become a fixture for many years to come. For managers of remote employees, instituting this new paradigm requires change management skills and an understanding of how digital group dynamics differ from traditional in-person dynamics. Professionals must learn new methods of interpersonal communication and team building and new tools for communication technology, and they can do so through a Master of Business Administration online program.
So what are some of these best practices? The following are some ways managers can successfully navigate a transition to a remote work environment.
Hire Proven-Effective Remote Workers or the Right Personality Types
The modern work environment gives hiring professionals the advantage of bringing in professionals with a track record of success in remote work environments and avoid hires who need more structure and direct supervision. However, if you do consider candidates without work-from-home experience, you may want to use the Myers-Briggs test to assess personality types. According to HR Technologist, “sensing” personality types often perform better working remotely with outcome-focused, research-oriented tasks, while “intuition-led” personality types may feel out of sorts when cut off from in-person interactions.
While personality tests are not the only way to measure a candidate’s preparedness for a remote role, it is one way to understand professionals’ strengths and weaknesses for a potential job.
Get to Know Your Team Members
Small talk has a significant purpose in managing remote work teams. Learn about your employees as people, including their interests. This exchange is essential to building a personal connection, making your workers feel valued by you and the organization. Start individual and team meetings by asking about your employees’ weekends, trips they returned from or upcoming holiday plans. These conversations also facilitate team member bonding and trust, fostering more robust team communication in collaborative projects.
Establish Clear Expectations and Structure
In-office environments offer inherent structure, which provides employees a sense of assurance. In a digital-remote environment, leaders must create that structure with specific written guidelines and processes for daily work and contingencies. Employees should understand how their performance will be evaluated upfront. Some other considerations to keep in mind as you devise your expectations and work structure as a manager include project and task priorities, work-life balance options, attendance tracking, rewards systems and usable digital and online resources.
Create Communication Policies and Processes
With digital communications, there are many options for engaging with employees, but a lack of structure can cause confusion and chaos. Determine which channels — including email, direct messaging, video chat and phone calls — should be used for each type of communication and level of urgency. Set expectations for group and intra-team communications and use digital tools to ensure efficient information sharing. Make sure that you engage with each employee regularly. Establish all of your communication policies and processes from the outset in writing, because the remote work environment can make employee disengagement and insecurity much harder to anticipate.
Develop Scheduling Accountability
Hold employees accountable to your expectations by having a one-on-one weekly meeting with each team member. Require each employee to send you a work schedule in advance of the meeting with details on projects, tasks and deadlines in order to assure you that everything is on track. Schedule a weekly appointment with your entire team so that everyone has visibility into and accountability for all shared projects.
There is so much to gain from working with remote teams, including unlimited geographic access to talent, satisfied employees and a desirable work-life balance. Employers are seeking trained managers to lead remote teams, so prepare to discuss your education and strategies to take advantage of this historic shift to remote work.