Not so long ago, getting everyone together in one room for a pep talk was a go-to management tool. It was never a walk in the park, but in the climate of Covid-19, it is harder than ever to manage a remote team.
Business leaders must now reinvent and rethink their workforce strategy to help managers keep remote employees feeling safe and performing at their best.
What’s so different?
It is a big mistake to think that managing a remote team is the same as managing employees face-to-face. By far the biggest challenges revolve around communication, social connection and trust. It is largely in these areas that remote managers need to work differently to their counterparts in the office.
In-person meetings were the prime means of communication for very good reasons. They were the go-to tool for problem-solving and spotting when team members were unhappy, distracted or confused. Without this option, finding out how employees feel is a far more difficult task.
What are the risks in remote teams?
It’s not easy to decipher when a staff member is struggling in an email or over the telephone without detectable in-person cues and body language. Even via a video conferencing call, feelings are easily disguised and staff can feel awkward about revealing problems, especially if they revolve around their personal situation. Therefore it can take far longer to identify and resolve issues in remote teams. This barrier makes it much harder for managers to look out for employee wellbeing, particularly around mental health. With job security a rising issue, employees are even less likely to fess up if they are struggling.
Disengagement is also a big risk in remote teams. It is easier for employees to feel left out or mistreated, and for communication to be misconstrued. Without a proper plan, information is often less forthcoming and remote employees are even more likely to feel isolated.
Motivation can also suffer in remote teams without the camaraderie found in the office and there are additional stress factors that are unique to remote workers.
The stresses unique to remote teams include social isolation, blurring of boundaries between work and home, misunderstandings, lack of support, a lack of career progression, increased home-related stress, and less influence over people and events in the workplace.
Not to mention the pandemic has added an additional layer of stress. Employees are worried about their health and catching the virus, concerned about job security and have mixed feelings about going back to the office, particularly those who have a long commute.
How can business leaders help?
Changing workplace culture
Having experienced the highs and lows of lockdown together we have collectively gained a new sense of compassion and businesses now have an opportunity to rethink the way their business models are working.
More compassionate workplaces are emerging and they provide a solid footing for better teamwork, increased productivity, a decrease in levels of stress and better leadership.
Listening and feedback are critical for remote working environments and even more so since Covid-19. In order to thrive remotely, it is vital that employees feel heard and know that any concerns will be addressed.
Effective digital tools
Choosing effective digital tools in the new remote world is an essential ingredient for ensuring employees are listened to and can provide feedback. This means a deeper understanding from managers towards their teams through multiple communication platforms and the use of survey software to gather feedback from employees.
Information that employees may find difficult to reveal in a Zoom call can be gleaned from a comprehensive employee engagement survey. This enables managers to easily identify issues and concerns of individual employees.
Employee Engagement, Evolved
WeThrive is the agile employee engagement platform that uncovers how your people truly feel, enabling managers to create highly effective teams, increase employee retention and employee wellbeing and deliver better business results.