In response to the uncertainties presented by Coronavirus (COVID-19), many organizations have asked their employees to work remotely, with some local governments even requiring it by enacting stay-at-home orders.

While close to a quarter of the US workforce already works from home at least part of the time, this crisis leaves many organizations transitioning to remote work for the first time, juggling the policies, procedures and technology required to keep staff productive and effective.

For many of us, we might be managing remote teams for the first time and struggling to adapt to it. How do you overcome the challenges of supervising employees in different locations? What steps should you take to build trust and open lines of communication? How do you help remote workers feel part of a team – and show that the team is performing?

Remote Management Techniques to Make You More Successful

One of the biggest misconceptions about managing remote workers is that it requires an entirely different skillset. You shouldn’t think about remote workers in a fundamentally different way. They are still people working in an organization to get things done.

Bring Empathy to the Table

This is unlike any situation many of us have dealt with. Employees are balancing full-time work and full-time childcare, not to mention the emotional stress and constant anxiety of a suddenly changed environment. They may also be feeling the financial pressures of spouses or partners who have been laid off.
All of your employees are likely to be more emotionally fragile than usual. Some will be anxious. Some will be angry. Some will feel hopeless or depressed and wonder why work even matters right now.
Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to a remote wokrforce, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ concerns, and empathize with their struggles. The more empathy you can bring the table, the more you can help your team stay on track. Here are some ideas to help:

  • Stay calm and positive – your team is looking to you for cues on how to react.
  • Focus on achievable tasks to provide a sense of control.
  • Check in daily, even if it’s just to say hello.
  • Encourage self-care – taking care of oneself is an important way to manage stress.
  • Most important: recognize they are doing their best in an extremely challenging situation.

Keep Your Team Connected

When working virtually it may take extra effort to keep people feeling committed to their team. They need to know that not only they’re contributing true value to the team’s common goals; they are also valuable to the team’s success in achieving them. Some ways to sow this include:

  • Having and maintaining non-work-related communication.
  • Sharing the future vision of the company.
  • Keeping your team informed about how the company is doing. People like to know what’s happening in other parts of the company and how they themselves fit in and are contributing to the bigger picture.
  • Get everyone in your team involved in important events and projects.

Communication and Tech Tips for a Remote Workforce

With remote work only becoming more common, your organization can’t afford to wait until tomorrow to learn and develop remote worker best practices. It needs to start today. The good news is that not many of these changes require sweeping, expensive changes. By and large, effective remote workforce management involves creating a great place for remote employees to work comes down to a shift in perspective and a willingness to put in the extra effort.

Choose the Right Communication Style

  • Email – for quick interactions.
  • Phone or chat – when you need real-time feedback.
  • Video chat – any kind of emotional or performance issue, building rapport.
  • Project management tools – to keep everyone in the loop regarding project status.
  • Content collaboration – for real-time document editing and feedback.

Tech Tools That Can Help

Organizations need to ensure that employees have access to the information, systems and processes they need to keep business moving. We have been able to stay connected to our work by using Laserfiche to access content, electronic forms and workflows; predetermined entry access rights mean that users only have access to the information they need to do their job, while other information (such as personnel details) remains private, and only accessible to the people (e.g. our HR professionals) who need it.

Your team must have access to their colleagues, and be able to simulate the in-office experience as closely as possible. In addition to email, we’ve used video conference calling and Microsoft Teams to stay connected for meetings and announcements, as well as general office chatter (which can be important for maintaining a sense of community, too). Laserfiche’s Microsoft Office 365 integration has also been critical for our teams’ ability to securely and simultaneously collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations within the Laserfiche environment.

Remote team collaboration hinges on each member knowing what needs to be done and knowing their colleague’s progress. Effective remote workforce management requires that your entire team is on the same page. Supplement interpersonal chats with a shared to-do list or project management software can cut down on email clutter and ensure no one is out of the loop, fully aware of the status of collaborative projects.

Consider the Cloud

The cloud has changed the way all organizations look at disaster preparedness and business continuity. Having systems, content and processes in the cloud better enables employees to collaborate from almost anywhere, and eases the transition to remote work. Cloud technologies also offer rapid deployment and higher scalability, and require less IT resources to update and maintain. As we continue to see more natural disasters, volatile markets and viral outbreaks, IT teams’ time will continue to be at a premium. You’ll want to make sure that they can spend as much time as possible handling critical tasks as opposed to doing software updates that alternatively can be done quickly in the cloud.

How to Track Success without Micromanaging

Remote workforce management is most effective when teams can thrive in a culture of trust and transparency. This is actually the basis for all team success, whether remote or in-person. Begin by clearly explaining expectations. Hold the highest intentions that everyone on the team is committed to seeing the mission through.

Manage by Objective

Give people goals to hit and then let them go to figure out the smaller stuff on their own. Micromanaging isn’t a good use of a time as it is, but it’s even worse in remote teams where you can’t see the team and where communication is inherently slower. Instead, rely on metrics and if tasks are getting done. The key is to set clear expectations to build a culture of accountability.

Define Common Metrics for Success

Too often metrics are overly-focused on activities rather than outcomes. In other cases, there’s no common definition of how success is defined or measured. It’s worth the time and effort up front to make sure that you and your team’s goals and metrics are clearly defined and understood by everyone and that there is a clear way for you to be able to produce the metrics necessary to check your performance and progress.

How Web Forms and Analytics Can Help

With web forms, you keep processes running, whether you’re in the office or at home. Customers and citizens can submit forms right from their phones or computers, and you can process them from wherever you are.

Even better, because you are working with digital processes, you can better manage workloads and measure productivity. Reporting and analytics built into Laserfiche Forms helps optimize operations by identifying inefficiencies and hidden opportunities. With built-in analytics, dashboards and reporting tools, you support smarter decisions and make it easier to discover what’s holding you back.

Digital forms and analytics make it easy to keep tabs on organization-wide activities and processes, to identify who is doing what, who did do what, what’s overdue and how long things are taking. This gives you the data to set metrics, have crucial conversations with your team and share information with your executive team and board.

Final Thoughts

As a manager, you’re under a lot of pressure, but you can do it. Remember your team is looking to you for guidance. You’re undoubtedly feeling many of the same feelings of anxiety and stress as your team – and that’s fine. You should feel whatever you need to feel. But in your role as a leader, you need to maintain your emotional equilibrium. The more you can remain calm, the more your teams will be able to calm themselves and maintain focus.

Technology can help you navigate the transition to managing a remote workforce by assisting with communication, metrics and more. Along with our customers, we at Laserfiche rely on business process automation to help business flow without manual intervention, so our employees can focus on activities that matter, such as complex decision making, creative projects and, of course, customer service. In this unprecedented time, automated processes have enabled us to shift to a work-from-home model, take new steps to protect the health of our workforce and our community, increase communications about our COVID-19 response and more, all while the day-to-day business processes — such as HR onboarding, payroll, IT ticketing and accounts payable — have been largely unaffected.

During this challenging time, work extra hard to maintain your emotional equilibrium, emphasize encouragement, and if at all possible, avoid nitpicking and criticism. Your team won’t be at 100% during this time, but by being a source of stability, you maximize the productivity that your employees are able to maintain.

Good luck!

To see for yourself how a Laserfiche cloud system can make your information and processes available wherever you are, whenever you need it, schedule a demo.

To learn more about how to manage business operations in a crisis, read our Ultimate Guide to Business Continuity, which covers the basics of business continuity management so you can develop strategies to keep your business moving in any situation.

 

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