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In response to the uncertainties presented by the Coronavirus, many companies and most of the public sector has asked their employees to work remotely. These new policies leave many employees — and their managers — working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time.

Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, hindsight is always 2020 and in this period of rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may no longer be feasible. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that we practice that we think will help you improve engagement and productivity of your remote employees regardless.

Common Challenges of Remote Work

First, you need to understand the main things that make remote working so difficult for many:

  • Loneliness

    The most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. During this crisis as social distancing measures are imposed this will become even more apparent.

  • Little to no oversight

    Many individuals struggle with the reduced support and communication. Your team members may feel that you are out of touch with their needs, and are no longer helpful.

  • Lack of information

    Getting information from people and new systems can be especially difficult during the digital transition. We’ve seen this lead to a lack of “mutual knowledge” among team members which can limit their ability to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt and make overall communication more challenging.

  • Distractions

    Although not something we’ve actually experienced it’s usually the thing our “normie” friends have commented on when talking about our remote work environment. They feel that they couldn’t work this way because they’d be distracted by the fridge or the television.

How To Support Remote Employees

As a digital agency MATES has been mainly remote since its inception, so we thought we’d write this short guide to help you combat the challenges above and get your team ready and productive as soon as possible.

  • Establish structured daily check-ins

    Strong habits are essential and these start with the morning stand-up. Use this time to quickly check in with your colleagues on yesterday’s work and listen to their successes and understand what challenges they are facing today. Don’t try and solve the problems here. But just make sure that everyone has a time to be together as a team and to collaboratively feel like they are working towards a singular goal.

  • Don’t skimp on the technology

    Enable your teams properly through modern technology. It’s 2020 – there have been many advances in collaborative work since the invention of email and many of them are now very reasonably priced. Free options are available that can meet most teams and paid options are currently very affordable too.

  • Outline your digital Ways-Of-Working

    Let your team members know clearly what is expected in advance. Give them clear guidelines of the hours they are expected to be available, digital etiquette that is expected to be maintained, weekly meetings that are mandatory and where to find the information that they need digitally. They may need training on any new tools so make sure you have adequate plans in place to cover this using the screen sharing tool you went with. If you need help coming up with the correct digital etiquette for your team members we actually created an article all about that here.

  • Remote Doesn’t Mean Un-Social

    Create opportunities for your team to interact socially. Often neglected when chasing the bottom line, we see this as vital to our success. The easiest way to establish some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items. Try to bring an element of fun into these meetings and remember to open up the conversation like you would at the water cooler. What are they watching on Netflix? How’s their family? Kids ok?

  • Offer encouragement and support

    It is important for us as managers to acknowledge stress and to give people a place to vent. If a newly remote employee is clearly struggling but not communicating stress or anxiety, make time to ask them directly how they’re doing. Be vulnerable and let them know how you’re feeling. Once they open up it’s important to make sure you listen. Something I’m still working on getting better at is letting their concerns be their own, rather than always trying to make comparisons or analogies to myself.

Who are MATES?

MATES Inc is a marketing agency that specialises in delivering amazing customer experiences for the sports and retail sector.

Looking for help with your remote team during this crisis?

We believe that as a business community we need to stick together now more than ever. So if you’re a manager or executive that’s feeling ill prepared for this transition to remote working and would like some friendly advice from a team that’s made the leap already please feel free to reach out for a free chat.