With online and hybrid workforces becoming prominent for many industries, we’ve come up with some tips on how best to create a streamlined and efficient workforce.

In recent years, many companies have asked their employees to move online and begin working remotely. In 2020, about a quarter of the workforce in the United States worked from home at least part of the time — a number that has continued to grow over the last few years.

While it is not always feasible, it is preferable to establish clear remote work training and policies in advance. This article will explore how to effectively hire and manage remote employees as there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take to improve the engagement and productivity of their virtual teams (even when there is little time to prepare).

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8 Common Challenges of Remote Work

Managing a remote team is very different from managing employees that are working out of the same office. Managers of remote employees need to be aware of these challenges in order to effectively be able to lead and support their teams and maintain a sense of company culture.

1. Time zones

One common challenge of remote work may be that your employees are working out of different time zones. Depending on the nature of your business this may not matter to you or your company.

However, if you plan on holding daily meetings or your work requires team members to be in constant contact and/or communication with each other, then a large difference in time zones may be something that you want to consider when you are hiring.

2. Hiring remote workers

In addition to considering time zones, hiring managers must also consider an applicant’s specific location (such as their province, country, and/or state). This is especially important if you are posting job listings on social media or job boards online, as you may receive applications from around the world.

Related: Startup hiring tips

You need to be strategic when hiring remote employees from other provinces, countries, and/or states due to the various labour laws and regulations that would cover those employees. These nuances will matter particularly for your accounting and HR departments, so you must decide early in the hiring process where you are willing to recruit from.

Related: Working from home insurance

3. Social isolation

Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote jobs, as employees often miss the informal social interactions of an office setting.

Regardless of whether an employee is introverted or extroverted, over a longer time period, isolation can cause individuals to feel like they don’t belong to their organisation. This lack of a feeling of “belonging” can also result in increased intent to leave the company, as well as apathy.

4. Minimal face-to-face interaction and supervision

Both project managers and employees that work remotely often express concerns about the lack of face-to-face interaction. Managers worry that employees will not work as efficiently or as hard (though for many types of jobs research indicates otherwise), while employees struggle with reduced access to managerial communication and support. Some employees may even feel that managers are out of touch with their needs.

5. Lack of access to information

Newly remote workers are often surprised by the amount of time and effort that is needed to locate information from coworkers. Even getting answers to simple questions can feel like a large obstacle for an employee that works from home.

Moreover, this lack of information may lead to misunderstandings and/or miscommunications between coworkers. For example, if you are unaware that your coworker is having a bad day, then you may be less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt if they send a brusque email.

6. Distractions at home

In order to do effective virtual work, it is recommended that employers ensure that their remote workers have both dedicated workspace and adequate childcare before allowing them to work remotely. However, in the case of a sudden transition to virtual work, this may not be feasible, and employers may need to be more understanding of distractions.

7. Access to technology

Whether you are hiring someone for a remote position or transitioning a current employee to online work, you will need to ensure that your staff have adequate access to reliable technology and the necessary resources. Depending on the nature of the work being completed, employers may need to provide phones and laptops to their remote workers.

8. Tech issues

As with any job that involves the consistent use of technology, it may be helpful to have an IT specialist on staff either part-time or as an independent contractor. They can help your remote employees troubleshoot any tech issues that may arise, and ensure that any company phones and/or laptops are receiving regular maintenance and updates.

How Managers Can Support and Lead Remote Work Employees

Now that we’ve considered some potential challenges of remote work, here’s how managers can better support and lead their employees who work from home.

1. Schedule structured daily check-ins

While these may seem tedious, daily check-ins are extremely beneficial for managers and teams that are new to remote working. Moreover, studies have shown that managers who are successful in their remote leadership endeavours frequently use video conferencing as a tool to establish face-to-face interaction with their teams.

2. Over-communicate

Lack of communication can be a challenge in a normal working environment but it is especially challenging when working remotely.

It is wise to ensure that you are keeping your team on track and communicating effectively by giving plenty of details when it comes to the team’s tasks, duties, responsibilities, and desired outcomes.

3. Take advantage of technology

Another way in which managers can better support and engage with their remote employees is to provide several different communication technology options.

While you may have a preferred method of communication, it is recommended that you provide your employees with a phone number, email address, and video conferencing tool (such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams) where they may reach you. Doing so will help you to tackle tips one and two above more effectively.

4. Establish some “rules of engagement”

Remote work becomes more satisfying and efficient when managers set expectations with their teams for the means, frequency, and ideal timing of communication. For example, you may choose to use video conferencing for daily check-ins but phone calls for more urgent communication.

5. Manage expectations

As a manager, ensure that you set clear expectations and request feedback to ensure alignment when it comes to employees completing tasks. It is wise not to assume that the team understands where their energy needs to be focused.

6. Focus on outcomes, not activity

Focusing on outcomes instead of activity is widely known as a best practice for empowering employees and increasing engagement. When employees have the training and the resources to execute, clearly defining the goals and desired results and then allowing them to develop an action plan enhances ownership and creativity.

7. Define the purpose of those outcomes

Define the why for your employees and ensure that everyone knows their overall purpose, as well as their role in achieving success.

8. Provide resources

Set your team up for success by ensuring that everyone has access to essential resources. This may include, but is not limited to, laptops, headsets, webcams, and phones.

Additional ways in which you can better support and lead your remote team may include:

  • Encourage remote social interactions and provide opportunities for remote social interaction. This does not always need to be work-related. It could be an optional daily conference room online in Zoom where your remote team may eat lunch together.
  • Show flexibility to your remote staff.
  • Exhibit empathy, offer encouragement, and provide emotional support when needed.
  • Mentor your remote employees more than you manage them.

Regardless of your managerial style, communication is key when supervising remote employees.

Insurance for Small Businesses

No matter what the nature of your business is or how many remote employees you have, small business insurance is essential.

With so many different types of business insurance available, it’s important to make sure you have the right coverage that works for your company. Contact APOLLO today to speak with one of our advisors and get custom coverage that’s suited to you.

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