Wed, May 03, 2023
With the popularity of remote work, organisations need to understand how to manage remote workers effectively. Whilst it may seem like a simple transition, many have found challenges with remote worker management they either were not expecting or didn’t consider. Many people were sceptical about how productive remote workers would be, whilst others have successfully got the best out of their new hybrid teams. With Forbes reporting that remote employees are feeling 182% less engaged than those working primarily in-person, how do companies make remote workers feel part of the wider team and more engaged?
Knowing how to manage remote workers effectively can unlock increased productivity, an improved employee experience (EX) and, ultimately, better experiences for your customers. Three main areas should be the focus for organisations wanting to improve remote worker engagement. These are health and well-being, the virtual working environment, and your responsibilities as an employer.
Remote workers face unique challenges that can impact their mental and physical health. These can differ quite dramatically from those faced by their in-office colleagues. Organisations need to provide virtual health resources to support remote employee health and well-being.
Encourage regular exercise and movement breaks - Sitting for long periods can cause health issues, and without the active part of commuting to work or moving around an office, remote workers may end up sitting and staring at a screen for longer. By encouraging your remote workers to take regular breaks and engage in physical activities, you will actively engage with them to make healthier choices and support them during their work day. From stretching exercises at their desk to remembering to break up screen time regularly, to even encouraging online fitness or yoga classes during the workday – these are all designed to show that as an employer you care about the wellbeing of your remote workers. More importantly, initiatives like these do improve health - both mental and physical - and boost your standing as an employer.
Provide access to mental health resources - Remote workers may feel more isolated or disconnected from their colleagues, which can lead to stress and anxiety. Providing access to counselling services or online support groups can help encourage openness to talk about struggles whilst working remotely. Burnout is a very real issue employees face, with a McKinsey study revealing 27% of UK employees report burnout symptoms at least some of the time. Many companies can help their remote workers deal with stress and anxiety by offering incentives such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This encourages a confidential environment for employers to discuss any issues they are having whether they are physical, mental or even to do with performance.
Encourage regular sleep and break patterns – Many of us underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, and remote workers may struggle to maintain regular sleeping patterns due to the lack of routine. Encouraging them to set a sleep schedule to ensure they get enough rest, and to start each day with a good routine, will help them feel more optimistic and ready to give their best at work. It’s also crucial that scheduled breaks are taken. Leading by example, line managers should encourage their remote teams to take full lunch and comfort breaks and avoid spending even more time at their screens than they need to. This will ensure motivation and productivity remain consistent throughout the day.
Creating a positive working environment is important within an office, so remote teams also need to focus on having a comfortable and safe environment to work in. Not only does this help separate work from home life, but it will also ensure productivity and overall job satisfaction are higher. The virtual work environment can be impacted by the amount of space and comfort employees have at home. Whilst some may benefit from having a home office setup, others may not have this luxury and work from bedrooms or even kitchen tables. So how do companies help create a better remote environment?
Provide ergonomic office equipment - Ensuring that remote workers have access to comfortable chairs, desks, adequate lighting, and the equipment they need to work well is a given. Just as you would provide these things in the office, you need to do the same for your remote workers. After all, if they need to be as productive as possible, providing the setup to work in this way is crucial. Talk to your employees about their current setup and any issues they have with it. For example, is their chair suitable for long periods of sitting? How reliable is their laptop? Do they need any additional equipment such as headsets, keyboards or dual screens to be more productive?
Encourage communication and collaboration - Having access to communication and collaboration tools to facilitate effective teamwork is another essential part of remote work. If your teams can’t communicate well this impedes collaboration and makes projects and tasks much more difficult. Remote employee productivity can soon dwindle due to communication-related issues, so it’s important to have clear channels of communication open between colleagues and managers to ensure your operation runs seamlessly. Extra effort has to be made on communicating with remote workers to help avoid feelings of isolation. Encourage regular communication throughout the workday outside of scheduled meetings.
Set clear boundaries - Encourage your remote workers to set boundaries between work and personal life to avoid burnout. The work-life balance of remote workers can be impacted without these clear boundaries, as many may work longer hours just because they do not have to commute to a workplace. Burnout and increased stress can be the results if workers are not encouraged to stick to working hours and take regular breaks. This can never be communicated clearly enough, or often enough, as many workers feel there is an unspoken obligation to work longer hours in return for working from home. It’s up to you to ensure this is not part of your culture.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your workers have the resources and support necessary to perform their duties effectively. Cultivating a remote work culture that resonates positively is a huge step in the right direction. A poor or negative culture is one of the great drivers of attrition, amongst both in-office and remote workers. Managing remote workers isn’t simple but it can be easier with the right approach. From virtual team building to understanding the obstacles that prevent remote employees from being more productive, not being physically around your workforce means a different strategy needs to be adopted.
Set clear expectations - Establish clear communication channels, and set expectations for work hours, deadlines, and deliverables. This needs to be done from the outset. When onboarding new remote employees, they should understand the expectations from day one. For existing employees moving into remote or hybrid roles, this also needs reiterating so that all workers are on the same page.
Regular check-ins - Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to check on your remote workers’ progress and offer support and guidance. This can have a huge impact on engagement and remote worker well-being, with remote employees 3x more likely to be engaged if they receive feedback from their manager at least a few times per month. This shows an individual that their work is being valued and they are not forgotten about – alleviating any feelings of isolation.
Provide training and development opportunities - Your remote workers should have access to training and development opportunities to improve their skills and career growth. Virtual learning and sharing of resources should be encouraged to help keep them informed and focused on developing their skills. During regular check-ins, presents an opportunity to discuss training and development and what your remote employees want to achieve in their roles. This can open the door to development opportunities tailored to each employee’s interests and aspirations.
Managing remote workers requires a different mindset, and organisations must understand the challenges that their stay-at-home staff face. By providing resources to support their health and well-being, creating a positive working environment and establishing clear expectations and responsibilities, you will be able to help and manage your remote workforce effectively. You can ensure that your remote workers feel supported, valued, and motivated to achieve their goals. This has the ultimate effect of ensuring long-term productivity, helping your company achieve an engaged workforce no matter if they work remotely, in the office, or a hybrid of both.
With a focus on the employee experience (EX), at Ventrica we create a positive environment for both our in-office staff and those remotely working all over the country. This enables us to deliver for our clients and create customer experiences that are both memorable and which develop brand loyalty. To discover more about how we help global brands enhance CX with an omnichannel approach, contact the team at Ventrica today.
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