Remote Working

The year 2020 has been quite different than what most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Whether it be you as an individual or your entire business, many of us have been impacted by the devastating outbreak of COVID-19. However, as we enter into the second half of the year and many of us are emerging out of self-isolation, we are finding ourselves hesitant to jump back into our previous lifestyles.

Although many states in the US have lifted their shutdowns and curfews, millions of businesses are refraining from sending their employees back to the office or workplace. Some companies have committed to keeping their employees remote “until further notice” for their safety. Given that many businesses were forced into this remote work environment, they may be struggling to manage and support an entirely remote workforce that, for some, will last indefinitely. So, here are some tips on how to manage, support, and lead an entirely remote workforce.

Communicate Frequently

Most importantly in any remote work environment, you must put emphasis on effective communication. Communication is how employees and teams will work cohesively and make an impact on their projects and tasks. Without it, you will create a domino effect of other issues which ultimately, can affect the goals and objectives of the entire company.

To ensure that your company is achieving effective communication you may need to set up daily meetings within teams. This can sound as though it may be overbearing and unnecessary, however, it is a great way to keep all team members up to speed on their project tasks. It creates a clear line of communication about what is expected of them from their supervisors and team members. Similarly, a remote work environment can drive more success with regular, and possibly more frequent manager check-ins. These meetings should be used to discuss employee well-being, performance, and individual goals and tactics to achieve them. All of these things provide managers with a better understanding of each employee’s headspace and abilities while working remotely.

Along with frequent check-ins, companies should encourage company culture meetings between all employees within the company. While the workflow in your company may still be the same, for many organizations, the culture will have drastically changed. However, company culture is important for driving high-level performance success, innovation, and employee retention within the company. Therefore it’s arguably one of the most important components to focus on in an at-home work environment. Culture can be achieved in a number of ways within a company. Whether you’re using Zoom’s breakout rooms or scheduling your own time to meet up with employees and chat, they are all important to maintaining and expanding the company culture.

Expect & Encourage Feedback

When transitioning into a completely remote work environment, it’s important to understand and encourage each employee’s perspective. In such a case like this, no employee expected the pandemic to occur or to be pushed into a remote work environment so it may not always be such a smooth transition for each employee. This opens up a wonderful opportunity for the company to receive feedback.

When working from home, an employee’s comfortability and productivity levels may have drastically changed. They may be struggling with an at-home setup or dealing with the mental difficulties that can come with sudden change. In addition, there may be a number of employees who have difficulty maintaining focus and motivation while working from home. There are hundreds of perspectives and feelings that your employees may have and it is the responsibility of the company to listen to them. This is the perfect time to send out frequent company surveys and questionnaires. This will give the company and its managers a better understanding of how they can support each employee and drive them to produce their best work each day. Try sending out a monthly questionnaire with a consistent set of questions to inquire about each employee’s adjustment to remote work and how they are feeling. This way, you’ll be able to track any progress and improvement in responses. Similarly, check-in with surveys about how supported each employee feels, if they feel they are missing supplies they need to be successful, etc. All of these things will encourage employees to communicate their concerns and needs to their supervisors so that each one can be addressed.

Deploy Technology and 3rd Party tools

Technology can be a great tool to take advantage of in any remote work environment. Given that many companies and their employees are relatively new to the work-from-home lifestyle, technology can assist in areas where the company and employees may be lacking. 

For example, time management is incredibly important when working remotely but can be difficult for many. With the many distractions that working at home can bring, it’s important to take advantage of the ways that you can properly manage your time. Kickidler is an all-encompassing tool when it comes to time management. The software allows employees to track their time spent on different tasks throughout their day. Employers can also declare particular tasks to be productive or non-productive to track each employee’s efficiency. It will then produce reports based on the managers’ and employees’ inputs so that they can then review them on their own time. Through the reporting, employees and managers will be able to address areas of success and those that may require improvement. 

Similarly, note-taking and writing tools can be helpful to adopt for meetings and conference calls. In the office, an employee’s focus may have been unbreakable because he or she was fully immersed in the work environment each day. However, remote work takes away that privilege and in return, can make it more difficult for employees to focus. Encouraging the use of apps like Evernote during meetings can help employees to focus and remember the conversations within each meeting. The app provides you with a user-friendly interface showcasing all your notes, allowing collaboration with team members, and the ability to scan documents and go entirely paperless. An app like this can most certainly help to support remote workers and train their focus in a different environment.

Enforce Security Measures

A downside to a company going into a completely remote work environment is the increased risk for hackers and threats to the company. Many companies believe that since they have already implemented so much technology into the office environment that they have the proper security measures in place to address any threat that comes while working remotely. However, this isn’t always the case. 

Most commonly, companies underestimate the threats that derive from working on public networks. Essentially, any employee that is working from a public place like restaurants, coffee shops, or bookstores is at a greater risk of being hacked. Some common hacker tactics using public Wifi include the creation of rogue Wifi networks, distributing malware, or eavesdropping on Wifi signals with their own software. In addition, hackers have specifically taken advantage of the remote work environment that companies have entered into because of the pandemic, and with that, phishing schemes have skyrocketed. These, of course, are only a few of the many ways that hackers can pose as a threat to your employees and the entire company. However, they can grant hackers access to company information, client information, and so much more. So, ensuring the security of your networks should be a top priority.

As a first step, it may be within the interest of the company to educate its employees on the security risks that the remote work environment brings. Doing so may lower the rate of phishing attacks and stolen passwords and devices. With the employees being more aware of possible attacks and what exactly is at risk, it will likely encourage them to take the proper precautions and adjust their behavior accordingly. Secondly, the company may want to invest in security measures such as encryption, multi-factor authentication (MFA), automatic hardware and software updates, password-protected virtual meetings, etc. All of these things can be simple fixes for at-risk companies and can help to lower the threat of hacks toward the company.

Leading an entirely remote workforce is no easy task and is likely something you’ve had to take on unexpectedly. However, these are a few of the many ways that you can find success in remote environments. Communication, feedback, technology, and security measures will all help to drive your company to success no matter the environment that you’re in. Invest time into understanding how each of these tips can work best in your company and tweak them to be the most effective for you. Understand that a sudden adjustment like this may take time for the company and its employees to become accustomed to so continue to push forward in effort until you find the best tactics that work for your company.

Marie Johnson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, UX Designer and technology writer from New York City. If she's not writing her latest blog post in her kitchen, you'll likely find her strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.

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