5 tips for managing a remote workforce during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond

Lockdown is now in place across the UK in the hope that it will help ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus spread. Because of this, employees who are not key workers should now be working from home if they can. Studies suggest this may not be as problematic as it seems. In fact, according to research, the productivity increase among remote workers can be equivalent to an extra day per person per week!

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For management and leaders who are used to sharing an office with their teams, working from home can present a whole new host of challenges. When Julie Wilson, the founder of the Institute for Future Learning was asked about what managing a remote team requires, she said managers should “double down on the fundamentals of good management, including establishing clear goals, running great meetings, communicating clearly, and leveraging team members’ individual and collective strengths”.

5 tips for managing a remote working

Our 5 tips will help you not only manage your remote workforce throughout the outbreak but will enable you to do it effectively beyond if it’s something you want to continue offering.

Define expectations

Setting clear expectations from the beginning is key for managing a remote workforce. When employees know what is expected of them, they are much more likely to deliver and produce their best work. Furthermore, it will also mean that you can easily review and asses the productivity of your team members as well as keep track of their progress while you are not able to be in the same office as them.

While some workplaces will already have formal policies set out for expectations on remote workers, those that have only just implemented will probably need to come up with this themselves. So, whether it is showing what you expect, making use of calendar sharing or any other form of expectation setting, make sure you do it so you can effectively manage your team.

Build trust

More often than not the reason managers are not willing to embrace remote working is because of the uncertainty around whether or not employees will complete work to the same level as if they were in the office. However, whether implementing remote work in your organisation is routine or not in the current circumstances, ensuring there is trust between you and your employees with be the foundation of your success while working from home. Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them,” says Aaron McEwan, Vice President, Gartner. 

Microsoft Planner, an online tool within the Office 365 suite can help you to build the trust of your employees as it makes all tasks visible and transparent. It does this by giving you a comprehensive view of all your individual team members tasks so that you can keep track of what stage projects are at and who is on hand to finish it. Not only this, but you can also see how many tasks each team member has giving you insight into what tasks someone is doing.

Give access to right tools

If your employees are not able to carry out their jobs as they would as if they were in the office, then you have failed to address the basics. Fortunately, with the advances in technology, you can address this easily by implementing some of the useful cloud tools available today.

For instance, Hosted Workspaces will lift that same Windows desktop your employees are used to and place it in the cloud so it can be accessed on any device, providing it has an internet connection. As a result, all the software that is key to the running of your business and that your employees need to complete their day-to-day tasks, can be accessed from any location. In addition to this, internet-based calling solutions will also mean that employees can make and receive calls as if they were in the office – something that can be hugely beneficial to those that rely on communication of this kind with customers and other employees.

Use video conferencing

Remote working, especially while in lockdown can present a huge strain on the mental health of employees. This is because it can lead to them feeling isolated and disconnected from their teams as well as the company as whole.

Video conferencing will allow face-to-face communication without the risk of disease transmission and give managers the opportunity to interact with employees in a way instant chat and email does not, nor will ever reveal. For example, facial expressions and tone of voice cannot be conveyed over these text and email.

Here at the entrust IT Group we have been using Microsoft Teams, a cloud-based team communication and collaboration platform which allows not only video and voice conferencing between individuals as well as teams but offers text chat and integration with OneDrive and other Office 365 applications. This integration means that all your tools, apps and required services are in one place, so you don’t need to leave the platform in order to continue communicating and collaborating effectively with your teams You can find out more about it here.

Check-in regularly

When working from home it can be easy to go along with your daily tasks and forget to check-in with team members. However, doing this can mean you lose track of their progress and result in them feeling shunted out and isolated.

Managers should try to communicate with employees for elements such as documenting decisions and meetings but also in terms of reaching out and checking in on individuals. According to a Harvard Business Review study, 46% of remote workers said the best managers were those who checked in frequently and regularly. The author of the article described that “the most successful managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and are on the side of overcommunicating.

If you aren’t accustomed to managing a remote workforce, it can be hard to adjust to and will no doubt be a learning curve. However, by being pushed into it due the lockdown across the UK, it will mean you are better equipped for new generations entering the future workforce who are said to gravitate towards companies that are able to offer and manage remote working.

Fortunately, there are a number of cloud tools available that can assist you in managing your workforce effectively even though you are miles apart. For example, Microsoft Teams combines chats, video calling, meetings and files with many Microsoft and non-Microsoft apps to create one singular workspace that can be accessed from any device, at any time by you and your employees. As a result, you would have one hub that you can use to check-in regularly, define your expectations and build trust.

With the number of coronavirus cases rising in the UK, it looks as if remote working will be mandatory for those that can. Therefore, it is paramount that managers take the appropriate steps to learn how they can manage their teams effectively to ensure productivity across the workforce.

If it is something your organisation is yet to implement, it is worth asking yourself and your superiors why. Working and managing in this way effectively is going to be important in the success of all businesses, in all industries until we are back working as normal.

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