Remote work is not a new concept, particularly in the digital marketing and ecommerce sectors. The rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to rapidly adopt this work model, even as others were already making the transition. Both categories of companies have realised the benefits of having employees work remotely, but at the same time they are witnessing some disadvantages. Notably, there is a concern that as employees start to work remotely productivity can suffer.
Employees may have difficulty in adjusting to a home work atmosphere, or may not be disciplined enough to stay on task while working remotely. This can particularly be a problem if workers don’t have a dedicated workspace at home, or if they lack the resources or equipment to work effectively. Communication within the team can also break down, which can be detrimental to productivity.
How to supervise your remote workforce without productivity levels suffering
Focus on output, not hours
It is essential for supervisors to monitoring employee work flow, regardless of whether they are working in-office or remotely. However, don’t make the mistake of supervising remote work in the same you would supervise staff working in an office. Notably, when supervising remote employees you need to focus on their output and accomplishments, rather than their attendance or the number of hours worked.
It is very difficult to check how many hours remote employees are working, when, and what tasks they are working on at any given time. More importantly, all of this is largely irrelevant. Instead, what you need to know is that are finishing their projects on time, and making the necessary milestones along the way, which can be monitored through a project management platform like Asana.
Empower employees to manage their own time
This emphasis on output rather than hours worked means that you can empower employees to organise their own schedule. Your role as the supervisor is to provide clear guidelines of each task and specify its objectives and deadlines. That way, it becomes easy to check if the team member is on track to meet the overall deadlines.
Of course there will be certain time-sensitive commitments like team meetings, but otherwise let your staff manage their own schedule and work on a timetable that works best for them. That way, they will be able to manage their time efficiently and maintain a work-life balance, all of which will boost productivity. You can also empower your staff to schedule in time for professional development of their choice. Sites like Skills TG have a wealth of short-term and long-term courses and training that employees can use to develop their skills and knowledge, ultimately making them more productive!
Keep the team connected
One of the greatest issues associated with remote teams is that working in isolation, staff can feel a sense of detachment from the rest of the team. However individual it may seem, every task is part of a larger project, with other employees working on other aspects of the same project.
Therefore, it is critical to keep staff connected to the big picture and continually remind them that every small task they work on is an important step towards the larger goal. Always involve staff in strategic planning and keep them updated as projects progress so that they feel part of that big picture.
Have formal and informal video meetings
Another drawback of remote work is the lack of socialising, face to face discussions, and in-person contact. This can detract from the team atmosphere that is essential for any group of staff to work together productively. It is important to replicate this social contact in digital ways, such as regular video-conferencing and group chat platforms.
Formal team meetings are important to keep projects on track and address any communication gaps Managers can also get feedback and updates from staff regarding the work in such meetings. However, don’t underestimate the importance of virtual social events too, like online after-work cocktail hours and other virtual team-building activities. Also, try to arrange in person meet-ups periodically if at all possible.
Make communication two-way
While supervising and checking in on your staff, make sure that communication flows both ways. Management is not just about clearly communicating projects and deadlines to your staff, but hearing what they have to say too. It is critical that you listen to your employees’ opinions, troubleshoot any issues and take on board suggestions they may have.
This is important for anyone who supervises staff, but need special effort in a remote setup where there are extra barriers to communication. Make sure that you are responsive to your staff and give them plenty of avenues to communicate with you, such as both group and one-on-one video meetings, chat and emails.
Pay attention to mental health
Working from home can be isolating, which can impact on morale and in turn productivity. It is part of any remote supervisor’s job to not only keep their staff motivated but also check in on their mental health. Keep track of how your staff are faring emotionally, especially during challenging times like lockdown, and provide suggestions for how they can look after their mental wellbeing. Give them space or mental health days if they need, and helping them to get counselling or other support.
Effectively supervising a remote team is all about keeping distanced employees together as a team and invested in the goals and objectives of the business. Besides supervising work flow, the management must also ensure that employees have everything they need to work productively, from the necessary technology to mental health support.
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