Right now, two-thirds of US employees are working remotely on at least a part-time basis.
At first glance, it can be nice to be at home more. Working remotely means more time with the family, later wake-ups, and saying sayonara to that dreaded commute.
Remote working even meant our productivity increased.
However, after a few months, or even weeks, the novelty can wear off. At least for some remote employees, communicating exclusively through video conferencing and conducting only virtual brainstorms can become grating.
It could be that your remote team members are struggling to focus. Perhaps they find it lonely. It could just be that they are finding the team management software they use hard to master.
Whatever the reason leading your employees to not feel empowered, it’s your job as a leader to help them out of this funk. An online team requires tactics suitable for online teamwork.
This is not an easy task.
We’re here to help.
Here are some suggestions on how to keep a connected workforce and help those struggling at working remotely:
Really try to understand the problem
As you can’t physically watch people when they work remotely, you do need to make more of an effort to see how everyone is doing.
Implementing project management tools will help you figure out where the problem lies. It helps you see if it is you, them, or the work that is the issue.
If a worker isn’t doing as well as they should be, the easiest thing for you to do is to reprimand them. But, actually, this method doesn’t really help anyone.
What you should be doing is trying to be more understanding with them. You need to look at things from a wider viewpoint and talk to your employee. There could be a simple solution as to why they aren’t doing as well as they normally are.
Setting up an online video conferencing meeting with either a group or an individual, and letting people chat honestly will help you get to the root of what’s going on. Alternatively, you could always ask for some anonymous feedback.
In order to really empower your remote staff, you need to act on that feedback and do what you can to find a solution to any problems.
Act as a listener
As a manager or CEO, it’s natural to assume a dominating role. But good leaders listen to their people, too.
When helping struggling employees, make sure you are asking them what is wrong, rather than telling them.
For example, instead of saying: “You aren’t finding the IVR very easy, are you? I think that’s what’s getting you down”, simply say: “Is there anything you find hard to use?”
This is a more open-ended question and doesn’t put the blame on the employee. It will also help create a roadmap to improve on their own issues.
In a wider context, just asking people “how are you feeling?” has the power to go further than you might realize.
Keep in mind that people respond differently to remote video calls. Some find it can improve communication as they are in a more comfortable setting. Whilst others can get camera shy, making it hard to read body language.
One way around this is to make them feel relaxed by showing empathy and ensuring you support them. Alternatively, you could try using CPaaS and find out the type of communication they respond to the best.
As a listener, it’s okay to add points, but don’t go off on a tangent about yourself and your own experience. This is your employees’ chance to express their thoughts and emotions. They can then work on feeling more positive about the job. In turn, this will make them a more effective remote employee.
Maintain constant communication
It isn’t enough to have a one-off conversation with a struggling employee and think your job is done. You should be having constant communication with them. Check in on their mental-wellbeing and with any part of the job they may be finding difficult.
With regular communication, you may discover the employee has lots of transferable skills. These skills can be used to help them work remotely.
For example, say you are a company that deals with small business taxes.
A member of your customer service team is nervous because you are introducing cloud-based call routing. The team member thinks they don’t know enough about a specific topic to do this role. However, as they are good with customers, they can use these transferable skills.
Setting up virtual brainstorming sessions will help you establish where problems lie. And the best ways to solve them.
Communication will help you guide employees in the right direction. Having further catch up sessions will let you both know how things are progressing.
Video conferencing fatigue is real. So, make sure not to overdo it with the communications, because this can take a toll on your employees.
Don’t overwork employees
Just because people are working from home, it doesn’t instantly mean they have lots more time in the day.
When employees are happy, they can be more productive when working from home. But if they are in a rut, asking the copywriter to produce ten newsletter examples in next to no time can become a massive issue.
This isn’t to say that it’s also okay for people to take advantage of the scenario. Striking the right balance is key here. This is where allowing employees to have more flexibility is great.
If it works for your company, you could always let people know that they are okay to work outside 9-5 hours. As long as they get the work done and are available for any potential meetings.
Using contact center workforce optimization software will help you keep on top of employee’s schedules. Making the workload easier for everyone all around.
Giving employees a level of trust and openness will also empower them and help to keep them happy.
Final thoughts and takeaways
We are all people, adapting to changes in working practices is bound to cause a few disruptions. As long as you approach working remotely in an understanding way, any problems that occur will soon get resolved.
The important thing is to work with employees, not against them, and find solutions for issues. Especially as remote working is likely here to stay.
Doing what you can for people will build confidence, empower people, and encourage great teamwork. All this will mean better results for your company overall.