Money & Business

How to Manage Your Newly Remote Workforce

By / Mar 20, 2020 (Tempura/E+)

Due to COVID-19, working from home is the new normal right now. Here are some tips on keeping your employees productive and happy.

Suddenly, much of the workforce is teleworking. Time Magazine calls it “the largest work-from-home-experiment.”

Given the urgency of the public health crisis, companies who didn’t have remote working in place had little time to institute policies for staff, ensure proper technology, or set up training.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to test working from home at scale,” said Alvin Foo, managing director of Reprise Digital, a Shanghai ad agency with 400 people that’s part of Interpublic Group, in an interview with Time. “Obviously, not easy for a creative ad agency that brainstorms a lot in person.”

Here are three ways to manage a newly remote workforce:

Establish routine check-ins. For employees who are accustomed to the buzz of a busy workplace, working from home can feel isolating. According to the 2018 State of Remote Work, loneliness is the biggest struggle to working remotely.

Similarly, employees sometimes feel that their supervisors are out of touch with their needs. To combat social isolation and better support employees, establish structured daily check-ins, according to Harvard Business Review.

Consider setting office hour limits. Worried your staff will be playing Super Smash Bros. for hours instead of working on that report? Experts say overwork is more common. Remote workers sometimes feel compelled to answer email at all hours and put in time on the weekends.

“The concern many managers have about their employees working from home is that remote workers are really just doing laundry and bingeing Netflix,” says Lindsey Pollak, a veteran of remote work, in a column for Inc. “In my experience and observation, the opposite is usually true—people tend to work more from home because it’s harder to ‘leave’ work.”

Provide opportunities for remote connection. Consider setting up remote happy hours or cyber lunch dates. For decades, Kate Walton’s company, Steyer Content, has been run almost exclusively by remote staff. To keep her workforce connected, she told NPR she holds trivia contests and celebrates birthdays using the messaging platform Slack.

“Tending to the mental and emotional health of our teams needs to be our top priority,” says Walton. “I mean, I really see that as part of the response, even before you get to the smaller issue of how to keep a business going through times like this.”

Sara Cutcliffe

Sara Cutcliffe is a longtime editor and writer who often covers health and consumer topics. More »

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