Channel commentators have been forecasting the ‘Death of the Office’ for a while now, but none expected the shift to happen so instantaneously. Overnight, the Covid-19 pandemic forced millions of businesses to become total work-from-home operations, leaving little time for any of us to adapt. For line managers and business leaders, this quick transition poses an extra challenge. You may find yourself wondering how to manage your new remote team whilst also adjusting yourself to the changes in your business and personal life.
As a developer of one of the markets leading remote working solutions, 3CX exists to remove the barriers to clear communication, regardless of what life throws at us. We’ve shared our learnings over the years below, to help our partners support their teams through these unprecedented times.
Common Challenges Affecting Remote Teams
Firstly, managers need to understand that the challenges faced by remote workers differ from those in the office. Remote work is demanding and without proper support, even high performers can experience lulls in productivity. Here are some of the common challenges affecting remote workers:
Lack of Supervision
Managers often worry that remote workers will not work as hard as their colleagues back in the office. Many employees, on the other hand, struggle adapting to distance management and feel a need to prove their work ethic remains intact.
Whilst introverted colleagues can thrive working alone, extraverted team members may find working remotely isolating and lonely. Particularly as there’s currently no out of hours socialising either! Feelings of isolation can lead to employees feeling disconnected from the organisation, so it’s important to address this through regular communication.
The transition to remote working has been so abrupt, that your team members are likely to be contending with sub-optimal workspaces. And, whilst we advocate having separate work and personal space, this isn’t possible for all. So, whether it’s balancing home school with work or operating from a cramped studio apartment, be mindful that everyone is feeling challenged by their new worlds.
Lack of Information or Access
Adapting to remote work takes time. New ways of communicating need to be discovered, information needs to be located and new technology needs to be learnt. As a result, tasks may initially take longer to complete and stress levels may be higher than normal.
Ways to Support Remote Teams
Minimize feelings of loneliness and lack of supervision by setting up a schedule of check-ins throughout the week. This can be a combination of team meetings and 1-2-1’s with individual employees. Organising virtual social events also boost morale, so why not host a virtual pizza party or karaoke night with your colleagues!
Focus on goals not activity
When you’re managing a remote team it can be tempting to focus on how often a person is deemed active than on productivity. Instead set task oriented goals that employees can achieve within clear time frames. This helps to build trust and shows an understanding of their individual needs.
Establish the ‘rules of remote’
Setting clear expectations around communication will help employees to navigate their new world. Urgent? They can call you on your mobile app. Brainstorming session? Organized in advance using Webmeeting. Ad hoc requests? They can catch you on chat. Make yourself available as much as possible but if you can’t be contacted, make it clear in your diary and use 3CX’s Office 365 integration to change your PBX status automatically.
Above all else, in these challenging times true leaders are able to empathize with their employees, offer emotional support and individualize. Ask employees how they’re doing and in particular, how they are coping with working remotely? If they’re struggling, listen to their concerns and help them put a plan in place to feel more in control. Providing a range of communication tools will also help, giving colleagues the choice of engaging ‘face-to face’ via VC, through chat as they do in their personal lives or via email for formal communication.
Working remotely is likely to stick long after the covid-19 pandemic ends as workers experiencing a life without commutes and office politics choose not to hurry back. According to Gallup, 63% of millennials would change jobs for flextime and if given the choice between a small raise and remote work, most workers would choose to work from home. Learn how to manage a remote team now and prepare for the future of the office, rather than it’s death.
by Ellen Wilkinson, 3cx Partner Communications Manager, April 20, 2020