Mental health and employee well-being are at the core of a well-designed work environment. While remote work offers many benefits, it can also have its disadvantages. Not everyone feels the same way working from home and this new way of working is not always fully understood by managers.
As working remotely has suddenly become an obligation all over the world and across industries, employees and managers had to adapt to new conditions. Both parties have to work alongside each other to successfully adopt this new way of collaboration, by optimizing the upsides and talk transparently through the downsides.
In this article, we will share several tips that all managers should consider and apply to ensure that their remote employees are happy and productive.
Tips For Managing Remote workers
With an unexpected shift to remote work, managers must recognize the new pressures that employees are under, heed the tensions and concerns of the team, and be empathetic to their struggles.
Ask them how they’re doing
If a remote employee seems to be struggling more than usual but hasn’t mentioned anything about it, schedule a check-in and ask them how they’re doing. Ask them questions such as "How has working remotely been for you?" and “Is there anything you find challenging with remote work that I can help you with?”. When you ask, be sure to listen carefully to the answers, and repeat back what you heard in the employee’s answers to make sure you understood them correctly. Let the worker's pressures or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of this discussion.
Communication is key, and a face-to-face video meeting can help you gather the information that you would have been able to notice when working together in the office. Many times, offering your employee the chance to express themselves has a real impact on the way they feel about their situation. Knowing that you can talk about your concerns without judgement helps you to feel cared about.
Once you have made their issue crystal clear, you must offer some solutions. It really depends on the situation, but here are some insights you should consider:
Encourage social interaction
Perhaps the most fundamental step a supervisor can take is to structure ways for employees to collaborate socially while working remotely. Currently, over 80% of employees rely on collaborative technology in the workplace. For remote workers to thrive, this technology has to work in tandem with team initiatives. Schedule virtual happy hours with your coworkers, share interesting pictures or even host an office Netflix party.
Maintain social connections with your coworkers and peers, whether face-to-face or remote. Virtual team-building activities, such as virtual trivia games, and collaborative puzzles can help immensely. Collaborative games in the spirit of healthy competition are known to improve morale and break the ice, especially between the newer team members.
Encourage daily exercise
Exercise indoors or go out for a walk, run, or cycle. Daily exercise helps employees build energy and relax which helps them bring their best selves to their work. It’s also important to promote taking smaller breaks just to stand and move around. Encourage teams to get up throughout the day and go for a walk to recharge.
Encourage time boundaries
Working remotely blurs the boundary between work time and personal time. Have a timetable of when you are free to browse email and accept calls. For example, after 6 pm, don't respond to work messages. In any case, you will complete your work during the first half of the day. In addition to setting aside time to work, you need to manage it properly. While remote time management is quite the challenge, following a few basic principles makes it entirely doable.
1. Give your employees the proper tools to improve their productivity
As Emmert Wolf said a century ago: “a man is only as good as his tools”. If your remote employee is not providing satisfactory results, their mental well-being is not always the only consideration. Did you really manage to give them the right tools to perform remotely?
In this section, we will highlight some important solutions that could make your team’s life easier.
Having numerous sorts of technology for communication is vital to engage employees so that they can work effectively. Yet, we should consider how to suitably use every tool to keep remote workers productive while maintaining the company culture and organization.
Being able to communicate effectively together by using chat messages, ticketing systems and video conferencing solutions are key to help your team communicate virtually.
This has a great impact on your employees’ well-being as it offers them several means to get in touch with each other while keeping a trace for backup. Thus removing the stress of carrying a workload alone.
Knowledge Management (KM) is recognizing, coordinating, collecting, and spreading data inside an organization. Knowledge management solutions help transfer knowledge across groups and people. The longer employees spend in the workforce and at a company, the more knowledge they accumulate. Companies can help employees share their insights through tools that function as a knowledge management base to find answers to their questions immediately and facilitate in-between team communication.
A Knowledge Management System (KMS) combines various information from across an organization in order to improve operational efficiencies. Organizations with knowledge management strategies deliver business results more quickly because employees can develop new skills through shared experiences.
By having a continuous information flow from other teams, your employee will benefit from extra knowledge regarding the company situation and will learn a lot regarding the company industry. This is also a great means to improve training processes as the employee won’t have to ask for training as a favour, but will have all the information available on demand.
Remote assistance process
Remote assistance refers to operations where expert teams offer technical help remotely thanks to tailored-made technologies such as visual support, chat messages, augmented reality or snapshot annotations. This way, your support team, providers and customers don’t have to come in person to show the issue. Support teams can provide remote diagnosis, from which a solution can be determined much fast than if someone had to go there in person.
This is a real game changer for the ways your employees deal with incoming issues. Having an immediate expert diagnosis when facing a technical problem eliminates the stress of having to find a solution on your own.
2. Make sure your remote employees have ways to connect together
In addition to providing employees with the tools to effectively work remotely, managers should also consider how they can help their remote teams build relationships and connect with one another. Feeling isolated is one of the biggest challenges to remote workers. This is why it is important to have workplace well being programs that help your remote team get to know each other to build a company culture.
Here are several solutions to consider to ensure that your employees connect to each other.
Virtual mentoring connects mentors and mentees in a remote-first workforce. It can be challenging to have the water cooler conversations that lead to informal mentorship or learning opportunities when employees are remote. Despite virtual mentoring needing to be more intentional, it can be effective, as long as the mentor and trainee are committed to the meeting.
One-on-one mentoring meetings
One-on-one follow-up meetings are an excellent way for directors, supervisors, and leaders to check in with employees and help them grow professionally. This interaction can help you build trust with your colleagues, assist with uncovering issues before they become serious, and build positive work relationships.
One-on-ones are planned meetings that you have with your employees to observe how everything is going. These are regularly around 30 minutes long. The director's responsibility is to tune in, ask questions, and uncover opportunities to improve.
Virtual meeting tools like Zoom help managers continue to watch for reactions and micro-expressions on their team members’ faces in order to recognize signs of distress before they can impact productivity and morale.
3. Support a healthy work-life harmony
Remote working can be an extraordinary benefit for families who need flexible schedules. Still, it becomes easy for employees to blur the line between work time and family time—especially if they don't have a dedicated workspace separate from the rest of the home.
In this situation, managers should talk to their teams about striking a balance. The devil is in the details and finding a way to separate the work and personal spaces is key to being able to focus on work and disconnect from it in the same space.
A big part of establishing a healthy work/life balance is understanding what times remote employees work most effectively. Everybody has different responsibilities and schedules to work around, and we’re all productive at different times of the day. Being aware of this and giving employees the independence to work around their own schedules will help them to do their best work and promote positive well-being.
Consider the concept of self-care practices at your next group meeting or start an ongoing discussion for workers to share ideas and check in with each other. Let them take a break and create boundaries with work to show others how it's done. Make sure you are defining concrete boundaries as well. Schedule available times in your calendar and stick to them. Promote workplace wellbeing by setting aside time for yourself, and becoming adaptable and understanding towards the efforts of your colleagues.
Here are some examples of great propositions to consider to improve the work/life balance when working from home:
- Find new hobbies and share them with your teammates
- Book some weekly time for sport or outdoor activities
- Share personal improvement goals
- Create a cooking competition to promote a healthy diet
- Share vacation plans
- Find mini-breaks activities - It can be listening to a song or playing some quick but mentally stimulating games like a word unscrambling challenge, or a jigsaw puzzle.
- Share your music taste and what you are listening to at the moment
4. Establish goals for remote workers
One great advantage of working remotely is that you save a lot of time in the mornings and evenings by not having to commute. However, on the other hand, it becomes quite complicated for managers to monitor the employees’ engagement and effectiveness. That is why managers need to define clear objectives and performance indicators for their remote employees.
This depends a lot on each team. It is impossible to compare the KPIs between the IT, support, sales or accounting teams. However, managers need to find ways to monitor the effectiveness of each team member by clearly defining their goals. For example:
- Sales team: the monthly MRR, the customer retention rate
- Support team: time to answer a question, satisfaction rate
- Accounting team: number of outstanding invoices with errors, payment <> invoice matching delay
- IT team: mission delays, ability to anticipate bugs, reaction time
- Marketing team: Branding recognition, gaps with competitors
Those KPIs can be measured during meetings, but having a live measurement process is always preferable as it would allow the managers to be in the action instead of the reaction. This transparency level is an important give and takes agreement improving mutual trust. Also, it is important to acknowledge the overachieving employees. For example, if an employee or a team exceeds an important goal, you can use Printify custom hoodie maker to make gifts for them.
Remember that you should always have recurring interactions with your remote employees to monitor their mental well-being. Pay attention to your workers, provide a space for them to share their thoughts and problems, and build relationships based on trust and open communication.
Whether working in the office or remotely, feedback is equally fundamental to your employees. Try to focus on the places where your workers are performing admirably and the areas where they need more clarity.
This will build a culture of coaching among your team and help your workers understand their areas of improvement. Remember that engaging in consistent communication practices and providing feedback are important elements to develop a happy and cohesive team.
All those communication touch points are necessary to understand your employees’ needs.