Remote Work: Challenges and Solutions

Posted by Andy Holmes on Tue, Nov 24, 2020 @ 08:30 AM

In March of 2020, the bulk of the United States of America went into a shelter-in-place to slow the spread of Covid-19.

No one could have predicted the nationwide pandemic would persist through October and still be spreading. This isn’t something the nation was ready for. It definitely wasn’t something professional industries anticipated.

Remote work has now become the norm. It may remain the norm for the foreseeable future. The landscape of work has been forever changed. As companies have done their best to adapt to massive transitions to remote work many barriers, questions, solutions and answers have arisen.

These are some of the answers to make remote work for employees during these trying times successful.

What should leaders and individual managers do to help their employees adapt to remote work?

If you have an employee working remotely, the odds are they have been at it for a few months now. They’ve likely developed a schedule and various productivity habits to get their work done.

But don’t assume anything. Workers can smile and reassure their managers that everything is fine to save face, but an inspection or interview from a manager can bring trouble spots to light.

The first step to help a remote worker is to make sure he has the needed equipment to do his job. It might surprise you who doesn’t own a laptop but is using a family desktop computer they have to sometimes share with their kid who is going to virtual school. Even if your remote worker has all the tools he or she needs to work, you asking them shows that you care and can go a long way in boosting morale in this time of crisis.

The next step should be to simply ask the remote worker what they need from management to perform at a high level from home. People are different, so the answers will be different. One employee may tell you that they need a daily zoom conference with the team to touch base with everyone while another employee may tell you they need a weekly email with bullet-points laying out the tasks for the week.

There needs to be more communication with employees during this time as the personal contact in an office space has been completely eliminated.

How can managers help remote workers adapt mentally.

Most employees aren’t ready to work remotely. Maybe they took some of their work home with them to get caught up on a project or put in some extra hours, but handling a full-time work load isn’t something most people are established to do.

Part of a leader or managers job is to provide structure to the work environment so production can occur. Just because an employee is working remotely doesn’t mean structure can’t be implemented.

Rituals and routines are the keynote to success. In an office environment there are usually enforced routines such as lunch hours and scheduled team meetings. All this is gone when an employee is thrown out of the office into remote work.

Managers can provide remote workers with schedules they can use as basic guidelines to cover all bases while they are at home. These schedules can be broad or meticulously broken down hour by hour on what employees should be doing.

A schedule provides structure and structure provides focus.

How can managers create company culture remotely?

I did a quick search on Amazon to see how many books were written on this subject. A cursory search gave way to more than 10,000 books on Amazon about to lead remotely or at a distance. The sheer amount of information was overwhelming and such a large search volume led me to believe that this is an extremely difficult subject for managers.

Here are three simple steps that you can take to build culture remotely:

  • Communicate so much that you feel you might be over communicating. Remote employees feel disconnected from the “mothership” and need to be e-mailed, DMed, Tweeted, texted, called, zoomed about what is happening with the company constantly. Without the personal contact of the office this is the level of communication needed to keep people in tune with the company.
  • Give reassurance. There is so much anxiety and danger in the world right now politically, culturally and professionally. Many employees are concerned about revenue goals of the company. Many businesses that shuttered their doors back in March will never open them again. Give constant reassurance to employees that the company is alive and well. A safe and stable job creates a mindset in remote employees that allows them to focus without the cloud of uncertainty about their paycheck looming overhead.
  • Lastly, make sure every remote employee feels they have access to you. Some of them will want and need to touch base more than others. Some employees won’t ever want to talk outside of the established zoom times while others may want daily one-on-one mini conferences. The point is, give everyone equal access to you as a leader or manager.

Remote work may be here to stay. But, it doesn’t have to cripple work and business. Remote work can be productive and offer unique opportunities for companies and employees to grow. Implement some of the above tips and help your employees conquer a remote work environment.

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Topics: Learning, mentor matching, Human Resources, web-based mentoring, Things to do when working virtually