Many businesses have found themselves operating very differently from the way they did in the past. On-site operations had to quickly pivot virtually with little advance notice. The pace of change was so fast, it has been said the use of technology advanced 10 years in 90 days.
The big question is whether people are more or less productive when working from home. Many external factors go into this evaluation, such as home-based working conditions and reliable access to company systems and programs. Perhaps the most critical issue is the disconnect between managers who expected the virtual environment to mimic the office environment. Some managers felt they had to micromanage staff to make sure they were working, which turned into a workday filled with videoconferencing and messaging on various platforms, turning out to be distracting.
As the virtual environment evolved, best practices emerged from the chaos. Managers began to understand how important it is to institute policies, such as:
- Providing access to needed technology. People cannot work to their maximum level without it.
- Setting expectations. For example, with regard to due dates, mandate the use of project management software and attendance at weekly team meetings.
- Being truthful and transparent. Provide regular updates about the company, including information about upcoming changes to processes and procedures and whether furloughs or layoffs are expected. The goal is alleviating the emotional and psychological stress employees are feeling.
- Giving feedback. Giving feedback is always important, but it is even more critical in a virtual environment because there is less opportunity for employees to gauge nonverbal clues or have informal conversations with their team.
- Encouraging innovation. The virtual world is continuing to advance. Being open to suggestions from across the remote workforce can lead to better practices that will help the entire company.
- Being flexible. Many remote employees are juggling their work and home lives. Allow them to work around their schedules.
- Providing structure. Schedule regular team meetings as well as frequent “alone” time with individual team members. However, invite people to the meeting only if they need to be there. Similarly, when sending emails, think before hitting the “reply all” button.
- Maintaining an open-door policy. Managers need to be accessible. Open-door policies can foster employee engagement in a world with little in-person connection.
- Scheduling downtime for employees. This helps avoid burnout and anxiety. For instance, having a stated policy that discourages company emails between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. allows employees to take time away from work without feeling guilty or stressed.
- Focusing on cybersecurity. When it comes to remote employees, having clear polices in place is critical. Policies that specifically disallow anyone other than the employee from using company devices or protocols that outline the use of personal devices go a long way toward digital safety. Requiring frequent password changes and offering cybersecurity training that teaches employees to identify risks like phishing are important tools as well.
We hope some of these suggestions help you in your current situation.