Tips for Managing a Remote Workforce During Coronavirus

Working citizens all over the world are being encouraged to work from home in a bid to slow down the spread of COVID-19. And because the coronavirus is already in our communities- in our streets and offices, the best an employer can do to keep their employees safe and healthy is to close down physical offices and set up remote-working structures.

While remote working is a necessity now, it creates a new set of challenges for the corporate world, especially for the many businesses that will be adopting it for the first time. There isn’t even enough time to experiment and prepare. This article is for such managers. We will explore 6 tips for supporting, staying connected, and managing your newly established remote workforce during coronavirus.

1.         Maintain personal interactions

At first, some remote workers will feel disconnected from their departments, company, and even their own careers. That can lower their productivity and engagement. As their manager, you need to create avenues through which colleagues can maintain personal interactions, just like they do at the office. There are tons of online social activities that you can all engage in, e.g. online trivia games or lunchtime group video chats. Any authentic and fun idea that’d bring your team together is fine.

2.         Lead by example

Your employees are stressed right now and so are you, but everyone is looking up to your leadership. They need your help to navigate this uncertain environment; you have to rise up to the challenge and provide the leadership they need. Set a consistent tone/culture of positivity. If you want them to work for 7 hours a day, you too should work for 7 hours or more. Invent new ways of working from home and share your experience with the team. Ask team members to share with their colleagues any remote working tips they’ve learned. It is by you being productive and hands-on that your subordinates will rise up to the new challenge.

3.         Set up remote departments, complete with departmental heads

Note that just like you cannot run a physical office on your own, it is impossible to run a virtual office without the help of directly responsible individuals. Your departmental heads will, therefore, take on a significant role in this transition. It will help if you hire a team of experts to train these managers on how to manage their departments remotely.

4.         Don’t give in to the temptation of micromanaging

If you’re the type of manager that loves to micromanage employees every second of the day, ditch your micromanagement tendencies at least for now. You can track the employees’ productivity and performance, but they will hate it if you keep calling and yelling at them all the time. Note that unlike in the office where they probably have it all, some employees are struggling to create a good working environment at home. Some don’t have comfortable office chairs or desks, others are parents to toddlers, and others live in noisy neighborhoods. You need to understand their realities and trust their commitment to the company vision. Let them run and get their work done.

5.         Be empathetic

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted different people differently. Also, individual employees manage stress and pressure differently. Some of your employees are afraid that you will fire them if this pandemic persists, others are worried about their health, and maybe some of them have lost a loved one through COVID-19.  It is important that you be empathetic to how each employee has been impacted.

Being empathetic won’t weaken your stature or authority as a leader. If anything, it will bring you closer to your employees and make you an even more respected leader. If you are not good with emotional interactions, this is the time to utilize your listening skills for managers in making yourself approachable in the eyes of your junior staff. 

Programmer working, coding on laptop, remotely.
Programmer working from home

6.         Invest in the right technology

Provide employees with adequate technology to work and communicate with their colleagues in a seamless manner. Provide them with secured Wi-Fi networks. Buy a virtual private network (VPN) for safe transmission of company data. Invest in remote management tools and software. And if any of your employees don’t have a home computer, provide them with one.

Conclusion

The coronavirus is a major disruption for many people, but we all need to be optimistic that it shall pass. It is our collective responsibility to help one another get through this stressful environment. The six strategies above will help you manage a remote workforce, alleviate the challenges they face, and keep your business afloat until this pandemic is contained.

Written by Lisa Mottins, University of Florida– Psychologist, Cyclist and Writer

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