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How Leaders Can Help Their Employees Succeed in the Remote Workplace

Follow these five tips that managers and supervisors can use to help employees succeed in the remote workplace.

The transition to remote work can be a significant adjustment. However, for a growing number of companies, employees, and candidates, the reality is that remote work is not a temporary solution or benefit. According to Statistics Canada, 80 per cent of new teleworkers would like to continue working at least half their hours from home, and this bodes well for companies. For most employees, productivity stayed the same as in-office work or improved: 58 per cent of employees accomplished a similar amount of work per hour, while 32 per cent say they accomplish more work per hour when they work remotely.

With that said, how can leaders of a company support their employees and set them up for success as they work remotely?

As a team leader, you are responsible for helping create the best remote work experience possible for your employees. Fortunately, you don’t have to solve these problems on your own. In this article, you’ll find five tips that managers and supervisors can use to help employees succeed in the remote workplace.

1. Put a focus on overall mental health.

Many people bear the burden of stress, uncertainty, and loneliness on their own, meaning mental health needs immediate attention from employers and the leaders within every organization. Employees value corporate initiatives specifically designed to help them manage and maintain their overall well-being, and these mental health initiatives can help improve morale, productivity, and the overall employee experience.

Such initiatives can include:

  • Starting an online discussion board regarding mental health

  • Coaching managers on how to approach mental wellness with their teams

  • Sharing and discussing mental health resources

  • Launching telehealth counseling services for employee use

  • Providing employees with a stipend they can use on a gym membership or other exercise programs

MIT Sloan Management Review states, “The most effective step to battle isolation, according to our survey, is regular check-ins by managers to see how their employees are doing personally and professionally, an approach that was mentioned by one of every 10 people.” Typically, employees appreciate some kind of emotional support, especially from their superiors at a company.

Putting the resources and systems in place to support your employees’ mental health can go a long way for your company. Mental health initiatives can help improve performance and increase employee retention rates.

2. Promote transparent and consistent communication.

In a remote workplace, leaders need to be mindful that virtual communication is better than no communication, and may need to be coached on how to have effective virtual conversations with their employees. Mary Baker writes in an article for Gartner, “Two-way dialogue between managers and employees ensures that communication efforts help, rather than hurt, engagement. Gartner research shows that employees’ understanding of organizations’ decisions and their implications during change is far more important for the success of a change initiative than employees ‘liking’ the change.” Communication between leaders and their team gives employees the perspective and information they need, which then enables them to express and process their emotions in a healthy way — while also feeling more in control.

Here are a few ways that you can encourage and promote consistent communication within your team:

  • Seek out feedback on a regular basis.

  • Create clear and streamlined processes for formal and informal communication.

  • Ask what their preferred communication style is (for example, instant messages, email, or voice calls, video calls).

  • Avoid making assumptions and actively listen.

  • Speak about the importance of their work.

One thing to note is that no one should expect the camera to be on during every meeting. Sometimes, being on multiple video calls throughout the day can be daunting. When you’re in-person in an office, you have breaks and are able to step away. Employees should be able to do the same while working remotely. If the camera doesn’t need to be on, don’t require it: This can allow your employees to relax a bit, even eat a snack, and help curb some of that Zoom fatigue.

3. Encourage a healthy work-life balance.

The phrase “work-life balance” has a different meaning for fully remote employees. When it comes to helping employees create and foster a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives, one of the first things you need to do as a leader is set clear, empathetic expectations.

Every employee’s situation is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement can be ineffective at best. When you demonstrate an understanding of your employees’ unique circumstances and embrace methods to help them work their best, such as with flexible schedules and operations, you’re more likely to cultivate a healthy work-life balance for your team.

Promoting work-life balance can be a challenge depending on the size, type, and available workforce of the company. How can a supervisor promote a healthy work-life balance when their employees are working at home?

  • Encourage your team to have a dedicated workspace.

  • Make sure employees are taking breaks and not overworking.

  • Reinforce the fact that having a routine and specific working hours is crucial.

  • Have patience: Everyone is different and expressing a little extra kindness will help your employees continue to be productive in a remote work setting.

4. Equip your employees with the tools they need to be successful.

Where do you find yourself being the most productive while working at home? Having the proper tools and an organized workspace is crucial to succeeding in a remote work environment. Depending on an employee’s role, the physical tools they need to do their jobs differ greatly. If they are on a computer all day, they may need an adjustable standing desk and high-quality second monitor. A salesperson may require more than a cell phone and a laptop loaded with sales software. As a manager, equip your employees so they have everything they need to do their job successfully.

Your team may have the technology they need to work, but does every person know how to use it effectively? Some employees may need additional training or support from other departments in order to work from home successfully. Simply sending them work equipment is not always enough, so consider the best way to teach your employees to use each piece of technology.

5. Find the proper balance between autonomy and management.

No one enjoys being micro-managed, but not everyone works best with complete autonomy. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, the writers explain, “One of the reasons the pandemic has been so stressful is because it has stripped people of their autonomy, or the extent to which they can be themselves and have discretion over their actions. Having a certain amount of autonomy has long been considered an innate psychological need, and studies have suggested that a lack of autonomy is detrimental for employee performance and well-being.” In order to rectify this problem, managers can replace more intense levels of managing with regular one-on-one check-ins.

Some supervisors think that the opposite of micromanagement — full autonomy — is the answer. This is not the case, however.

Here are three tips that you can use to help create the proper balance:

  • Set up regular check-in meetings with each of your employees.

  • Make it clear that you care. Ask how they are doing and what they need in order to feel supported and be successful. Act on their responses.

  • Revisit and consider updating your pre-existing beliefs about employees who may have had difficulties in the past.

Leaders Can Help Remote Employees Excel

Remote work provides organizations with the opportunity to rethink existing processes and make any necessary changes that will help boost overall efficiency and improve their virtual communications. Remote work isn’t going anywhere, and with it comes new challenges — and, more importantly, new opportunities.

Companies across the globe are experimenting with innovative management practices to help ease the transition to a more physically distributed workforce. One thing that’s clear is that leaders cannot afford to wait to react. They need to proactively reach out to employees directly to help them navigate their remote work environment and be as successful as possible while doing it.

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