During these unprecedented times, millions of employees have no choice but to work from home due to the threat of Covid-19, and it remains to be seen just how long they will be required to do so. This poses a big challenge for employers who are now having to think outside the box in terms of the best ways to lead and motivate their employees whilst they work remotely – a challenge that many, if not most, won’t have faced before.
Whilst there are many advantages to working remotely, managing employees who are working from home presents its own set of unique challenges. Creating trust between you as the employer and your team is crucial, along with open communication and establishing the required connections for collaborative work, ensuring your business continues to operate as best as possible.
In this article, we answer your questions and share our advice on how you can effectively manage and motivate your remote workforce.
What are the key challenges of leading and motivating a team who are working from home?
- Limited face-to-face supervision. And this works both ways. You will probably struggle with the lack of face-to-face interaction and may worry your employees will not work as hard or efficiently. Many employees may also struggle with the reduced access to managerial support during this time, leading to some potentially feeling like their remote managers are out of touch with their needs.
- Barriers to accessing information. It will be harder for you and your employees to access information from co-workers, and getting answers to simple questions will feel like a much bigger challenge to a worker based at home. It is also easier to misinterpret communication, making it easier for employees to take offense to an email when it wasn’t intended to cause offense, purely because they can’t hear tone of voice or see body language.
- Isolation and distraction: Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote working, so you need to be aware that your employees will no doubt be missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. They will also be faced with many more distractions whilst at home, and due to the nature of this enforced remote working, they may not have the luxury of creating a workspace that is suitable for them to be free from these distractions.
How do I overcome the challenges of leading and motivating employees who are working from home?
As much as leading and managing a remote team can present a variety of challenges, there are also ways in which you can overcome these to ease the transition. Below we answer your questions and share our top tips on how you can effectively lead and manage your team remotely.
1. How do I make sure my employees are properly equipped to work from home?
It is vital your team has the right tools to be able to continue working from home as they would normally do within the office. It will be difficult for you to lead and motivate a productive workforce if they are unable to work as effectively as possible due to a lack of resources.
Make sure they have internet access, a company phone set up at home if required and any software they would normally use to get the job done right.
If they require a comfortable chair and like the chair they use at the office, let them take it home with them. You need to do all you can to ensure your team are as comfortable as possible with their office set-up at home, as this will enable them to be more productive during working hours and you will get more from them in return.
2. How do I make sure my employees are clear of my expectations when they are working remotely?
Just because your employees are not working within an office environment, it doesn’t mean that everything has to change. For example, their working hours are more than likely going to be kept the same, so make sure your employees are aware of this and when you expect them to be online, responsive and engaged. They don’t have a commute in the morning anymore, so traffic can’t be used as an excuse for being late!
Start each day by setting out clear expectations. Nobody wants to be micromanaged and you need to put a degree of trust into each of your employees. However, setting out the goals and tasks that need to be completed at the start of each working day will help give your employees structure, a goal to focus on and they will be aware of your expectations from the outset so you are making them accountable for the work they produce.
3. How do I stay connected and communicate with my remote workforce?
Collaboration is a crucial ingredient of a successful team, and even more important when it comes to leading and managing a successful team. Whilst it won’t be as easy to communicate with your employees who are working remotely, there are plenty of ways in which you can make this easier.
Many high-quality solutions to support online collaboration and teamwork are available for free or are relatively inexpensive, including platforms such as:
- Microsoft Teams
Encourage the use of these platforms for instant messaging and video calls to help stay in touch and connected with your employees. Conduct a video call each morning to set out clear expectations for the day head but use these platforms to help your colleagues stay in touch with each other too.
Enable conversations to happen that are not focused solely on work, as your colleagues will want to stay in touch with each other. Perhaps plan to video call over a lunch hour one day per week or have a virtual “happy hour” on a Friday afternoon to enable non-work-related conversations.
4. Is it normal to find it hard to trust my team who are working from home?
This is probably the most important tip of them all. At some point, once you have defined the objectives and goals for the day ahead and you have set your expectations and deadlines, you must trust your team to deliver and you must give them the space and freedom to do that.
This can be difficult, but trust is the main ingredient for the formula of success when it comes to leading and managing a team remotely – motivate them, and then give them the time to come through. Check in with them regularly throughout the day, but don’t bombard them. Showing your employees that you trust them without being constantly supervised will go an awfully long way.
5. How can I offer encouragement and emotional support to my remote workforce?
This is especially important in the context of an abrupt shift to remote working, which is a situation most employers have found themselves in at the moment.
It is imperative that you are open and available to acknowledge stress, listen to your employees’ anxieties and concerns and empathise with their struggles. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call your employees from time to time to ask how they are doing personally as well as professionally.
Treat each one of your employees individually on a personal level, as each one of them is likely to be experiencing a different range of emotions.
Use encouraging phrases like “this is tough, but we can do it.” It will help instil a sense of leadership, and your employees will be more encouraged to open up to you about their feelings and come to you with any concerns that they may have.
Managing and motivating a remote workforce requires the same approach as a traditional office environment, however the tools and strategies you use to create connection, open communication and performance management will need to change to suit the remote workplace.
Successful remote working is all about having good habits and the right tools in place. If you don’t have them, now is the right time to get them sorted.
Remember to engage with your employees, check in with your employees, set your expectations and their accountability but also show them you care about their happiness and wellbeing too, and together you will overcome the challenge and come out stronger than ever.