By Amonique Brown
Jun. 25, 2020
Today’s growing remote workforce has transformed our way of working and created a new normal that’s far from ordinary. This shift in how we work has created the need for new strategies and tactics for effectively reaching and engaging employees remotely.
As some companies claim remote working is here to stay, workforce leaders and business managers must develop and hone remote workforce management skills, identifying and refining ways to ensure employees feel supported and can continue working effectively outside the office.
Understand your employee base and communicate accordingly
Remote working isn’t a new concept, but the broader shift to remote working caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is unique. Employees who are accustomed to working from home or enjoy remote working will thrive during this time. Others will struggle to successfully navigate their new work environment.
Show grace to employees and colleagues who you know are struggling to adapt. As a workforce leader, it’s your job to ensure employees feel supported and are poised for success, regardless of their unique situation. Avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach to communication.
Regardless of communication style and preferences, schedule regular video and/or phone check-ins with your team and employees. Face-to-face communication is more important now than ever before. Video conversations with employees you might not see face-to-face, whether that’s because you sit in different offices or your workstreams don’t frequently overlap, can help you forge strong relationships across your entire organization.
Provide resources to meet employee needs
Understand your team’s needs and put resources in place to help meet them. Host virtual town halls, consultation sessions and webinars on important issues impacting both your organization and the world. Whether that’s celebrating diversity to promote unity or offering support for working parents, do your best to provide the right resources for employees.
In addition to identifying specific needs, remaining cognizant of the work/life balance is crucial. Share what you’re doing to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Suggest outlets for your team to relieve stress and disconnect, whether that’s through exercising, meditating, reading, cooking, painting or volunteering.
Knowing they have your support in maintaining a definitive work/life balance — even if that means taking a break during working hours — is key to positively impacting your employees’ mental and emotional well-being. Although more employees are working from home and many travel restrictions are in place, you should also encourage your team to fully sign off by using their vacation days (as available and in line with company policy).
Maintain open lines of direct communication
When working remotely, it’s important for employees and colleagues to know that you’re available even though they can’t come to your office or meet in a conference room. Communicate the times of day you’re typically available and your preferred methods of virtual communication.
I’ve developed a system with my supervisor: If my boss sends me a text message, the ask needs to be addressed immediately, while an instant message is less urgent. If I want to schedule an ad-hoc meeting, it should be scheduled for early morning. Communicate to employees the best time and ways to reach you, and be virtually available when you say you will be.
This goes both ways. At a time when homes have become home offices, developing an understanding of your employees’ schedules and demonstrating your support will go a long way. Is there a window of time when their child is napping and that’s when they prefer to schedule meetings? Do they like to unplug in the afternoon, perhaps to take a walk with their dog?
Work to understand your employees’ schedules, and do your best to support them.
Employee management through effective communication
Managing a remote workforce effectively comes from truly knowing your employees and working hard to meet them where they are. During this tumultuous time, when possible, keep it light. Share a piece of good news, a poem, story or quote that’s meaningful to you. Look on the bright side and encourage employees and colleagues to do the same.
Being a constant in your employees’ lives, communicating with them, listening to them and building real connections is key to successful leadership today and every day.
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