How to successfully manage a remote workforce

If the nationwide shift to working from home has had you worried you’ll lose control of your workforce and productivity will drop as a result, you’re not alone. Many businesses didn’t feel ready to move their people to remote working, but there’s no reason why it can’t be very successfully. As the change appears to be here for the long term, Jo Moss shares her top 7 tips to ease the shift from office to home based working and to help make it a triumph for your business. How to successfully manage a remote workforce

1. Setting clear expectations

Focusing on outputs, rather than the amount of time spent sat at the computer, is key to managing a remote team successfully. It might be tempting to want to check up on your employees to make sure they are actually working, but people can sense when they’re not trusted, and they won’t thank you for it. As well as making sure your people have the right equipment, tools and resources to do their work, give them accountability and ensure each person is really clear on what’s expected of them; what they need to do, and when and how they need to deliver it. Clear expectations make it much easier for you and your managers to determine who is working well and who is not and therefore who needs closer management or extra support.

2. Good communications

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open. It’s easy for anyone to become isolated when working from home, and potentially become disengaged, so introducing more regular check-ins – both 1:1’s and team-based – will help. Many businesses have implemented a daily morning briefing video call. This is a great way to see each other, be clear about the day’s activities and priorities, discuss any issues and help everyone get mentally prepped for the day ahead. If you’ve laid staff off or perhaps made changes to people’s roles, make sure everyone is clear on what the changes mean for them and the impact on workflows. Put simply, over communicate so everyone is on the same page. It’s tempting to rely on email and video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Skype at the moment, but don’t forget the good old-fashioned phone as a means of checking in. Try and have a mix of communication methods as relying mainly on video meetings won’t work well for everyone. It can be harder for people to ‘read the room’ so you might find it’s always the same people actively participating. Be creative and think of different ways for people to contribute to the team dynamic that fit their individual style.

3. Practical considerations

Health and safety rules and requirements exist regardless of whether employees are working in the office or from home, so make sure your people have an office set up that fits the requirements of their role; as far as you can at least! Remember though, it’s a two-way responsibility, so your employees also have a duty to work in a healthy and safe way.

4. Consider mental wellbeing

We all have different circumstances right now that make dealing with the pandemic challenging and even those stoic members of your team may be struggling. You don’t need to be a counsellor, but make sure your 1:1 check ins focus not just on work but also on how your employee is doing more generally. Many of us were used to working in a certain way back at the office and will find their natural personality type is not so easily suited to remote working. So, find out what’s working well for them and what extra support they need.

5. Keeping up team morale

Your team may well feel a bit flat and fearful if you’ve made redundancies and it’s important to reassure and move things forward in a positive way. Make sure to celebrate successes and share team news and wins. This is more important than ever to help create a positive vibe. Just because you can’t go for drinks on a Friday night or have had to stop the regular Wednesday work-mate Pilates session, there’s no reason for the fun side of working life to come to a standstill. Try initiating a weekly team quiz or getting everybody to wear a comedy hat to the Friday morning team meeting. Little things that introduce a lightness will help keep a sense of fun. Encourage people to share what they’re having for lunch, their TV/Netflix recommendations or a song of the day.

6. Be flexible

It might be a member of your team is struggling to work their usual 9am to 5pm hours. Perhaps they have more caring responsibilities now and would much prefer to work fewer hours during the day and make up the time by working in the evening. If you can be flexible and support your employees to fit work around their personal circumstances, it will be greatly appreciated and will help your employee to be at their most focused and productive. Be mindful though if emails are being sent in the evening or early in the morning, other team members know they are not expected to always be ‘on’ and respond when they’re not actually meant to be working. You might want to discuss this with your team and come up with boundary expectations.

7. Working from home expenses

If your employees are required to work from home, they may be eligible to claim the cost associated with working from home (i.e. the increased electricity or heating usage for example), totalling £6 per week (tax free). You may be asked by your employees to give them this payment as a tax-free allowance or to deduct the sum from their taxable income. Check the HMRC website for more information on how this works. Hopefully these tips will prove useful as you get to grips with managing a remote workforce. Get in touch with us here at Moss HR if you’d like any further help or advice.

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