Managing remote teams: how to support your employees while working from home

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While new to many organizations, remote working is likely to be here for some time – and managing remote teams with it. However, remote work has long been active in several industries and organizations. It was estimated that in 2019, that most companies were offering some kind of remote work arrangement.

This isn’t surprising, as there are many known benefits of working from home, both for the individual as well as the company.

For the individual, often it means operating on your schedule. Working during off-hours – either early in the morning or late into the night – is often highly productive thanks to reduced interruptions from colleagues. The research supports this, those remote workers saying they are more productive working remotely than in an office – a clear benefit also for the organization.

Avoiding the commute is another major benefit of remote work for many employees. Just last year, it was estimated that the average person in commute is now 66 minutes per day. This is the time that remote workers can invest in personal health and relationships instead.

Concerned with the bias that can exist in some reports, Forbes recently curated research from Gallup, Harvard University, Global Workplace Analytics, and Stanford University. Forbes found that teleworkers are 35–40 percent more productive than office counterparts, and remote work autonomy promotes higher quality results, with a 40 percent reduction in quality defects. Organizations also save an average of $100,000 per year per part-time telecommuter.

However, working from home also comes with its challenges. 19 percent of employees who work remotely cite loneliness as one of their biggest challenges. Additionally, physical challenges can arise when employees find themselves working at a too-high kitchen table, or in an awkward chair, working with insufficient light, or without decent acoustics for calls – all of which can lead to injuries over time. These create risks for both individuals and employers.

One thing that has become crystal clear during the pandemic is that employees working from home need tangible physical, technological, and emotional support from employers to remain engaged, productive, and healthy.

Emotional wellbeing

Looking after employees’ wellbeing is similar to looking after your own. Ensuring there is a balance in the employees’ lives, and work does not take over everything is essential. Promoting healthy physical behaviours, including exercise and healthy eating, can be done via office perks and subscriptions just as easily at home as a fruit bowl and running club can in the office. Similarly, relevant, constructive rewards and recognition can motivate employees to progress towards their goals.

Strong communication, setting clear expectations, holding regular video conferences, and team huddles for formal work interactions help ensure your remote workers understand exactly what is expected. A structured workweek is also essential for teams to stay connected, deliver progress updates, and also for a sense of mental wellbeing. Letting work filter into home life and home life filter into work can both be counterproductive. Virtual lunches and online drinks can also help to ensure individuals feel less isolated and more connected to their team, even while working remotely.

Effective technology

Technologies that support collaboration, communication, and transparency between team members are making work from home environments much more productive and comfortable than ever before. Zoom has recently become a verb, and while Slack used to be code for ‘cool tech company’, it is now code for ‘frequently-communicating team’. Enterprise tools such as Microsoft Teams are getting a strong workout daily. Meanwhile, ensuring there is a centralized document platform where employees can access files, such as the G-Suite or any Enterprise Content Management System has become essential to supporting productivity.

Physical Wellbeing

Many employees relocated to their home workspace in March 2020 with nothing more than their laptops. Slated initially as a temporary measure, two weeks have turned into six, and social distancing is to stay for some time yet. This could mean that employees who are working at home now are at risk of injury and strains if they’re not properly set up.

An ergonomic home office set-up is a relatively small investment that can have huge rewards – not least of which is 25 percent uplift in productivity. Naturally, an ergonomic workspace will also decrease the risk of compensation claims and demonstrate to your employees that you’re taking good care of them.

If setting up ergonomic home offices for your employees is something you’re not sure about, get an expert involved early in your planning and get your business ahead of the competitive curve.

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