How To Effectively Manage a Remote Workforce

The coronavirus pandemic came like a thief in the night catching many businesses unawares with its drastic effect. Businesses have now been left with no other choice than to create contingency plans to ease into the sudden transition.

Only a handful of companies today could have predicted the need for sudden, widespread remote work, despite the already increasing need for remote workers. For those who are new to it, they continue to struggle with remote stand-ups and near total reliance on collaboration tools.

Tech professionals say keeping things running smoothly requires a mix of the right technology, while maintaining your office’s culture even at a distance. Also, some of the usual check-ins, now frequently by video, need to reflect the reality of the epidemic, and how employees are faring during the crisis.

So, here’s how to effectively maintain your technology and your sanity in your now widely distributed office:

Keep the security very tight

It is important to ensure that all employee’s devices that are connected to corporate resources are adequately protected from malware with scheduled scans and software upgrades.

Julie Branc, national director of client experience and Strategy at All Covered, Konica Minolta’s IT division, says this period is the best time for organizations to deploy “deploy a managed security awareness training program.”

With COVID-19 phishing emails on the rise, a lot of businesses were ill-prepared for the realities that came with having all employees work from home.

“A major challenge and focus remains to be security and compliance of the end points that now live outside of the protected corporate network.”

Julie Branc, National Director of Client Experience and Strategy at All Covered, Konica Minolta’s IT division.

Clearly communicate your plan

Communication is very important with adjusting to a remote workforce and Rishon Blumberg, a managing partner of 10x Management, says it is can be successful depending on what your communication plan is.

Blumberg recommends setting up specific, measurable, and achievable goals to everyone involved and building a schedule for virtual stand-up meetings that works for your business. Once that has been done, it needs to be clearly communicated to everyone strictly adhered to.

Also, diving your team into smaller groups of no more than six people would help to ensure that there is clear communication within every group. In larger groups, there is the tendency for people to start feeling overwhelmed with new information and comments.

 “Create communication threads for each of these groups so that group members know where to go in order to communicate with others.”

Rishon Blumberg, a managing partner of 10x Management.

Create an active social circle

Despite working remotely, it is still necessary to continue with existing office events and social gatherings to improve the morale of employees and keep them feeling connected.

Dima Peteva, brand and culture director at SiteGround, says having an active social circle is very important during this time and organizations should still find ways to carry over office social activities online.

She also recommends promoting a healthy work-life balance which is usually the biggest challenge with working from home—the inability to separate work from home.

“While working at home the temptation to keep glancing at your work email or finish just this one task and end up working overtime could be very dangerous, so we encourage people to keep their normal work hours and have leisure activities planned afterwards.”

Dima Peteva, brand and culture director at SiteGround.

Organizations can suggest book clubs, movies, and online entertainment sources that employees can engage in past office hours to ensure that they are not spending all of their time working.

Check-in more frequently

The pandemic has placed an unexpected burden on the mind of everyone and a lot of employees are bound to have heightened level of stress from remote work during this time.

Tech professionals are tackling this problem by ensuring their teams can first express how they’re doing before progressing directly into whatever work needs to be done for the day.

“I ensure my teams are handling change and remote work well by constant communication. I want my teams to feel connected and know I’m available if they need me.”

Susan Lally, vice president of engineering at CloudBees.

Don’t abuse virtual meetings

It is true that virtual meetings are often abused and according to Minolta’s Branc, this can be a big burden for a lot of employees.

Working from home is a lot different from working in the office and it is important to not confuse both by hosting too many calls or meetings. Employees would need time to adjust to the realities of remote work and would be a lot of efficient when they are not pulled into virtual meetings almost every hour of the day.

“Keep conference calls to the time committed. Allowing conversations to continue outside of the scheduled time can bleed into other commitments for the person or group you are speaking with, causing them stress. Being mindful and courteous of their time keeps people more engaged during the time you are working with them.”

Julie Branc, national director of client experience and Strategy at All Covered, Konica Minolta’s IT division.

Encourage professionalism

One great tip to make the transition to working from home easier is being professional. While you’re working from the comfort of your home, it is necessary to create a professional space within your home with minimal distractions just like your office workspace.

It is also advisable to “dress for work” though not necessarily wearing corporate clothes but comfortable clothes that are a lot more presentable than pyjamas. Doing this will help put employees in the right mindset for work.

 Additionally, CEO Jeff Shiner who runs a company that has been entirely remote for over 14 years says creating a daily schedule is important in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

“Stick to a regular schedule. Even if working from home means you can be flexible with your time, setting your own hours and sticking to them helps maintain work-life balance and mentally untangle at the end of the day.”

CEO, Jeff Shiner.

Trust your team

For every team lead, your default stance towards your team members working remotely, should be trust.

Rafael Solis, COO of Braidio, who says it’s the most important aspect of working together with a widely distributed team. Maintaining a trust culture amongst team members is important for building chemistry, promoting transparency, and increasing efficiency.

Remote work can become significantly more difficult when there’s no trust. In addition to the feeling of loneliness and disconnection from the company due to social isolation, failure to build an effective engagement plan can be very burdensome.

Chris Fielding, CIO of Sungard AS, also recommends having a kick-off meeting where everyone can get an equal understanding of your remote collaboration workflow. This goes to show that you care about everyone’s opinion and are committed to creating an active support system for all team members.

 “They need to work together to create a trusting environment where all colleagues feel respected and are able to speak openly. This allows everyone to get help resolving their issues that would previously have been a water cooler conversation.”

Chris Fielding, CIO of Sungard AS