Managing a Remote Workforce

We have been discussing the concept of ‘digital transformation’ for some time now.  Employees are enabled to work anytime, anywhere as people are connected to constant, shared, and real-time information through virtual platforms.  However, this is more than just a change to new tools.  It is also a new culture and mindset.  Our daily practices, workplace structures, customer interactions, employee-leader relationships – these all change as well.

Even with this transformation, most companies have been working in a somewhat hybrid structure where workers have still been located in-office either full-time or on occasion.  As a part-time consultant, I personally am hardly ever at the Peters & Associates office location, but I still do make a point of dropping in every so often to see people in person.  However, with the rapid developments of COVID-19 this past week, more and more organizations are moving to a fully virtual and remote workforce if the nature of employee work allows for it.

One immediate outcome of this, which is explored in several technical blogs on our site, is the need to ensure your IT infrastructure can scale for the large number of remote users.

Another outcome, however, is the culture shock for managers and executives who are not accustomed to leading a fully remote workforce. Here are a few tips to keep your team high-performing and enable them to thrive during this turbulent time:

  • Ensure there is clarity around remote work expectations, tasks, performance outcomes, and deadlines. Tools like Microsoft Planner, now integrated into Microsoft Teams, can be very helpful to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Create guidelines for availability – remote and virtual should not mean available 24×7, which can be very stressful in these already stressful times. Have core business hours for meetings and collaboration and set expectations for email review and response.
  • Consider using video conferencing when possible to help keep people engaged and make them feel like they are together in the office. This can facilitate face-to-face interaction which is much more effective for brainstorming and problem solving.
  • While remote work provides flexibility, it also creates ‘virtual distance’. Work to continue fostering relationships and connections that are no longer happening around the water cooler. Leverage tools like Teams (formerly Skype) for ‘chat’ to keep the communication flowing.

Note that we also need to keep in mind that given the dynamic situation we are facing, many people are also understandably anxious and stressed. While remote and flexible work has actually been shown to lead to happier and much more productive employees, we should also use this time to touch base with them from time to time to continue to foster good communication and feedback practices.

In addition to providing technology solutions and services, we have experts on hand that can assist you in navigating this new normal from a change management, leadership, and digital culture perspective. Contact us at info@peters.com to connect and discuss further – we are happy to help!