Remote Working – How to Manage Employees in a Virtual World

Remote Working – How to Manage Employees in a Virtual World

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a global crisis, severely affecting the world economy, and putting millions of human lives in danger. With businesses across verticals being badly hit, there has been an unprecedented shift in traditional operational models – with employees’ workstations relocating from office desks to their living rooms.

The concept of remote working, or WFH (Work From Home) as it is commonly referred to as, is not novel or unique, rather, until recently, it has been the common amongst professionals involved in creative job profiles, gigs, BPO/KPOs, and freelancing. In a remote work business model, a remote team constitutes of a group of individuals from different time zones, diverse skills, and varied culture, collaborating together on a unified project. The ongoing pandemic has compelled organizations into a large-scale transition to remote working, regardless of sector or industry they belong to.

Facing the Change

Businesses face different challenges over and above what comes through in regular operations. These include hiring the right candidate for the job; communication barriers to team collaboration; poor employee engagement due to unconducive home environment, lack of clear-cut roles and responsibilities, inadequate tools for measuring employees’ performance, lack of personal interactions, not to mention, employees’ accessibility to appropriate remote working medium such as collaborative tools, electronic devices, stable broadband, VPN, amongst others.

Additionally, such a shift is not easy for the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups, mainly due to inadequate technology infrastructure and/or adaptability to the remote working procedures.[1]

A recent Slack report  reflects that productivity and communication take a hit when employees are new to working from home. However, experience helps with this, with employees that have been working from home for longer than a month finding tools and strategies to boost collaboration and work satisfaction[2].

In order to minimize the learning curve to work from home, organizational heads and business managers need to undertake steps to manage their remote teams effectively. It becomes essential to ensure that employees are equipped with updated technological tools and software systems, are trained, and upskilled to use any tech tools seamlessly, to carry out their responsibilities efficiently.

Clear-cut communication of a team’s  schedule and responsibilities can ensure removal of ambiguity or duplication in job processes to minimize confusion, demotivation, and frustration in the team.  Boundaries and schedules need to be well defined so employees know when they are expected to be available, and to minimize the stress and burnout that can otherwise result from longer work hours.  As a flip side to this, , managers need to keep their virtual ‘office door’ open, providing support to the unique work from home challenges for their team as and when they need it.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is that humans are emotional creatures – we work not only for monetary benefits but also for the ‘pat on the back’, the appreciations for a job well done. In remote working, it can be difficult to measure the productivity of the workforce. Managers must ensure that result-based tracking tools are adopted to focus on results, such as deliverables, learnings, and reports.

The Silver Lining

It is said that the word ‘crisis’ when written in Chinese, comprises of two characters – one representing danger, and the other representing opportunity. This global crisis has accelerated the transformation of business models across the globe, irrespective of enterprises being small, mid-sized, or large opening the door for an opportunity to explore different and new ways of working.

And things do seem to be working. As per a recent Harvard Business Review[3], 87% employees feel more connected due to new video conferencing tools while a survey by ConnectSolutions[4] suggest that 30% of the workforce get more accomplished in less time. As for the companies, remote work can prove to be more profitable, based on Global Workplace Analytics[5] study that enterprises can have an average savings of $11,000 per part-time role, when converted from physical to virtual.

Remote work is proving to be a key enabler of business and economic continuity and is likely to become the scaffold on which the future of work models would stand strong and resilient.

Is your business ready for this shift? And more importantly, are your operational systems in place to manage your remote teams?