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When companies started shifting to remote work during COVID-19, some were likely better prepared than others. A recent study by Upwork indicates more than half of companies have no remote work policy in place, which means that suddenly sending employees home to work is stepping into uncharted territory.
There’s no doubt that suddenly adopting remote work comes with challenges. Specifically, managers need a way to ensure team members are staying productive and meeting deadlines. However, employees also need to feel empowered to work independently without feeling like their managers are looking over their shoulder or bombarding them with messages and emails (remember, too much communication can also kill productivity!).
These workforce management strategies can help you strike the right balance of helpful communication and trust that will allow productivity to thrive.
Set Clear Expectations From the Beginning
Many managers fear letting their teams work from home because they don’t feel they have a good method of measuring productivity. At least in the office, they can keep an eye on who’s working on what project. If that’s the case, then it’s even more essential to set boundaries and expectations up-front so you can hold each person on your team accountable.
This could mean establishing set working hours (it’s easy to fall out of a routine when working from home), requiring team members to dress professionally for video calls, or even conducting peer check-ins every day. This not only makes your job as a manager easier but also tells your employees what’s expected of them. With enough direction, they can better manage their time, stay organized, and continue pushing forward without the guesswork.
Create Direct Timelines and Process Protocols
If you have teams scattered across projects and time zones, it’s helpful to establish process protocols and communication cadences that dial in on the specifics that affect each worker.
On the process side, teams that work together on a project should understand the progress they’re supposed to make each day. Timelines can be mapped out to include daily, weekly, and monthly objectives so that each team knows what’s expected of them and how late work may affect the rest of the timeline. You should also establish processes for submitting work, getting peer reviews, and handling change requests to keep things moving fluidly.
And when team members have questions or need help, they should follow a specific communication cadence that directs them to the proper channels. For example, you might designate one point of contact that everyone sends their questions to, and if that person can’t answer, he or she will go to the next person in the chain of command.
Doing this helps to eliminate distractions and disruptions between team members to keep productivity high and keep employees focused.
Consider the Tone of Your Message
Communicating remotely takes on new challenges when you don’t have the benefit of face time. It’s not always easy to gauge the accurate tone of an email. And depending on the subject matter, a tone like urgency can easily be mistaken for frustration.
This is one reason why it’s important to have more than one way to communicate with your team. Email or instant messaging can be excellent tools for sending quick, simple requests or reminders, but may not fully translate important messages. Ideally, you’ll choose a way to connect with your team that allows for two-way communication when it matters most, such as when you’re pushing to meet an important deadline.
Regardless of the communication tools you use, make sure you think twice about the tone of your message before you send it. The last thing you want is to upset your team by making them think you’re angry when all you’re trying to do is help them understand the immediacy of a request.
Empower Your Strategy with Remote Management Tools
Using the right toolset can help you accomplish the above workforce management strategies easier than by relying on email and phone calls. Project management apps like Basecamp, Trello, and Asana are powerful in their own ways and can help keep deadlines and next steps in front of your team at all times.
For rapid-fire communication, Slack has become a mainstay for remote teams. Companies can create multiple chat groups so that project and topic information stay within the right channel.
If you need face time with employees, tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts are ideal. You can host multiple people on the same teleconference call and be able to see their faces when chatting.
Remote Management Success Starts at the Top
Working from home may be a confusing time for everyone, including yourself. But you can dissipate a lot of this confusion by setting the stage for success as early as possible.
One of the most effective strategies you can put to work today is to lead by example. Just as you would present yourself as a leader in the office, you can continue to set the pace for your team while working remotely. Employees that are new to working with this level of independence need a strong anchor they can rely on, and the best thing you can do is to show them you’re all in this together—and together, you can create the same high levels of productivity and success that you always have.