Kansas City is relaxing its shelter-in-place restrictions. However, the furor over the death of George Floyd has spurred mass protests, which may force the city government to revert to strict quarantine measures. This is because two separate yet compounding factors, namely maskless protesters and the use of tear gas, may contribute to a spike in COVID-19 infections and make the complete return to the workplace unwise.
As a precautionary measure, you might want to let your employees start or keep working from home until conditions improve. Here are a few tips on how to better manage your remote workforce:
Focus less on methods and more on goals
Because home life and work life become blurred when people work from home, aligning schedules becomes more difficult. Since children are also at home, parents understandably have a harder time dedicating hours for work. The same goes for employees who are tending to sick or elderly family members. Whatever the case may be, the strict protocols applied at the office might be impractical in remote work setups.
What managers need to do instead is to set and communicate clear goals for their teams and show how their roles contribute to the overall survival and continued success of the company. While there are some protocols that the company can’t do without (such as those for cybersecurity), eschew the ones that may inhibit productivity. Establish what must be achieved and trust that everyone understands what’s at stake in meeting company objectives.
Hold virtual town hall meetings and establish two-way communication
Be transparent about how the company is faring amidst the economic crisis so that everyone understands why upper management implements certain strategies. Disclosing how revenues have slumped during quarantine may be painful, but this helps staff understand why some of their colleagues have been furloughed or why budgets and salaries have been cut.
Use virtual town hall meetings as opportunities to convey how employees are key to the company’s success and that you’re taking concrete measures to look out for their welfare. After showing staff what they can expect by sticking with you, invoke the values of high work ethic and proactiveness. For instance, those whose past work experiences involve eCommerce and digital marketing may be valuable fonts of ideas if online revenues dramatically increase.
Recognize the challenges your employees are facing
While remote work does save people from the hassle of commuting to work and allows them to enjoy the comforts of home, it also brings about its own set of challenges. For instance, the feeling of isolation that remote work brings may be adversely affecting the mental health of some of your employees.
At a professional level, they may be feeling more stressed and are perplexed as to why this is so. Maybe you’ve been holding too many video conferences that led to “Zoom fatigue,” or maybe your staff have been overworking without being aware of it.
Beyond concerns that stem from work-related tasks, there may be kinks in team dynamics and tensions between coworkers. For instance, remote workers might be feeling anxious about receiving fewer benefits than those who go to the office.
Then there’s the overall workplace experience. Thanks to being physically distant from one another, awkward and tension-filled social situations can be avoided. This allows for one-on-one sessions where more sensitive subjects such as sexual harassment and racial discrimination can be broached. Black Lives Matter protests flared up across the nation — and now is the time to ask persons of color about their experiences in your company. Have the difficult conversations, fight the urge to be defensive, and listen.
Lastly, ask staff about how well the company is relating with the community at large. Perhaps they feel that the organization can grant them more opportunities to participate in causes that align with the company’s values.
Managing a remote workforce is a lot of work, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To avoid feeling this way, first keep in mind that understanding the nuances of remote work helps everyone better navigate the extraordinary circumstances we’re in. Second, remember to tackle issues separately, and with the support of others. To use a metaphor, it’s easier to finish a whole pizza if you and your friends eat it by the slice. And lastly, focus on the things you and your remote team have control over, and celebrate your victories.
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