Challenges of working from home for managers
While working from home is the ideal work scenario for some employees these days, it has always been a tricky situation for much management to deal with. There might be a lack of control over work progressions and some might find it challenging to build trust with them. However, this is the prospective future of how the conditions of the workplace will be, and managers have to adapt to manage the work conditions for everybody involved.
Challenges faced by Managers:
- Lack of face-to-face supervision
- Supervisors worry that employees will not work as hard or as efficiently
Challenges faced by employees:
- Struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication
- Remote managers may be out of touch with the employees’ needs and are neither supportive nor helpful in getting their work done.
Remote work and the future
Ideally, it is always preferable to determine clear remote-work policies and training. However, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation is just not feasible. According to Naval Ravikant, remote work is the future we all must prepare for with the numbers growing by 140% since 2005, nearly 10 times faster than the remainder of the workforce.
Remote work and Job performance
To start, managers have to understand the factors that may make remote work especially demanding. Employees may experience declines in job performance and engagement after they begin working remotely, especially in the absence of preparation and training.
Employees who are new to working from home are often surprised by the added time and energy needed to gather information from their co-workers. Even getting answers to what seems to be a simple question can turn out to be an oversized challenge. This phenomenon extends beyond task-related work to interpersonal challenges that may emerge among remote co-workers. Research has found that an absence of “mutual knowledge” among remote workers translates to a lower willingness to grant co-workers the understanding of their difficult situations. For instance, if you recognize that your officemate had a rough day, you may view a brusque email from them as a natural product of their stress. However, if you receive this email from a remote co-worker with no understanding of their current circumstances, you are more likely to take offence, or at a minimum, to think poorly of your co-worker’s professionalism.
Loneliness during this remote working situation
Loneliness is the most common challenges faced while working from home with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. Extroverts may suffer from isolation more within the short run, mainly if they are not able to have opportunities to mingle with others in their remote-work environment. However, over an extended period, isolation can cause any employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization, and may even end in increased intention to resign.
Work and Home balance
We often see images representing remote work which portray a parent holding their baby and typing away on their laptop, often sitting on a couch or living-room floor. This is a terrible representation of effective virtual work. Typically, we encourage employers to have both dedicated workspace and adequate childcare before allowing them to work from home. Yet, with a sudden transition to virtual work, there is a higher chance that employees are going to be contending with suboptimal workspaces and (in the case of faculty and day-care closures) unexpected parenting responsibilities. Even in normal circumstances, family and residential demands can affect remote work and managers should expect these distractions to be even more significant during this unplanned work-from-home transition.
What we are going to share next is to provide a guide to help in this change of work environment to benefit not only your employees but you as a manager and the organization as well. Setting expectations first, everyone encompasses a different idea of what results means. Whether showing samples of what you expect to be done, calendar sharing, etc., to ensure clear expectations are set. The more prepared they are, the higher they will deliver.
5 Ideas for Managers to overcome remote work challenges
Managing a virtual team – productively starts with your mode for communication.
- 1. Setting guidelines
First, arrange for a fair number of weekly formal “check-ins” via video calls or through group chats within the team. Second, have a set of guidelines for daily tasks. What is important and which ones are urgent? Some people work better with a checklist of questions and thoughts while others do it differently. An understanding of the work priorities will further mitigate inefficiency, allowing ultimate productivity.
- 2. Promoting engagement.
Engage your remote workers daily through some form of communication tool. This constant interaction and engagement will help remote workers feel inclusive and being a significant aspect of the organization.
- 3. Building an online community
Building an online community is vital to developing an engaged remote workforce. Use technology to form dedicated spaces for celebrating special days (e.g. birthdays), company milestones (e.g., months or years of service), also as community recognition. Being intentional about creating community helps develop a corporate culture that inspires connection, which might result in increased productivity.
- 4. Promoting empathy
Promote empathy and appreciate their lives by discussing about family, commonalities and shared beliefs. Managers can use various online platforms to foster better personal relationships with their subordinates. It shows that you are supportive of their success by assisting them to achieve their work objectives on top of just checking on their progress and numbers.
- 5. Initiatives to promote healthy relationships
Given that most communication is non-verbal, it is hard for words alone to convey how you are feeling about something. At work, words can stumble upon as more aggressive by nature, or not as impactful as you will like it to be. If someone did an excellent job, or if there is a team win, find a GIF at a site like giphy.com and send it with the message praising them (you are reinforcing good behaviour, right?). Watch how much better a reaction you get than after you send a “Good job.” You’ll be able to get a comparable effect if you wish to diffuse an email by putting an emoticon at the end to point out you are not too serious about the intention of your messages.
Bringing back to leadership via online communication
Leaders also need to adapt to how to lead, and that starts with communication with their team. Always remember, communication is the REAL WORK of Leadership.