Managing remote workers can create challenges, but detailed planning and the right HR technology can help almost any employer to overcome remote work challenges. Here are 10 ways that HR providers like MP recommend defusing the problems that employers may need to overcome with employees doing remote work.
1. Tracking time, attendance, and productivity of remote workers
Many employers might shy away from offering remote work to their team because they have concerns about productivity and the distractions of life at home. However, this can easily be remedied by using HR software to track time working remote, productivity, and attendance. With this software, managers can motivate their remote workers to get on track and even ensure distractions are minimized. Additionally, this software may even help managers make recommendations that help workers do a better job when they are remote and use their time better.
2. Hire candidates who have experience with remote work
Once an employer decides they will be offering remote work options to their team, it’s important to consider remote work during the hiring process, too. When interviewing candidates, managers should ask if they have ever done remote work before. They should also ask how working remote went, or if they want to work remote again. Hiring managers can even ask deeper questions about how the candidate stayed productive while working remote, how they avoided distractions at home, how they avoided burnout, and how they set up their remote work station at home. One thing an employer cannot ask directly about is whether the candidate has set up consistent childcare at home—or indeed, even if they have children or want to at all. This could make the employer appear discriminatory and get the employer into legal issues.
3. Avoid problems by clarifying methods of communication and delivery of work for remote team members
When employees are working remotely, rather than in the office, communication and delivery of work becomes a little more complicated. However, this challenge of remote work can be simplified when expectations are outlined for the whole team. People will collaborate better and be more productive when they know things like how they can expect to reach remote workers, when is work due, how will those working remotely join meetings, and how quickly managers and office workers can expect a response from people working remotely. This is, in fact, one of the biggest remote work challenges that people face. It’s also one of the easiest problems to resolve when everything is clearly documented and shared with the remote and onsite team. Documentation should include clear parameters for how employees working remote should:
Call out sick or request time off
- Ask non-emergency questions or get and give updates
- Deliver work
- Ask emergency questions or notify managers of emergencies they encounter when working
4. Encourage those working remotely to make time for wellness
Research has proven repeatedly that the most productive workers are happy ones that take the time to prioritize their health. When employers have teams working from home, they can make a special effort to encourage that they take time for wellness. Employers can offer discounted gym memberships, offer to take “walking meetings,” where everyone is walking and on the phone during a meeting, or run fitness initiatives. Fitness initiatives can be very loosely defined, just encouraging employees to take time off from working to do whatever feels good: biking, take a walk, take a yoga class, meditate, etc. Particularly when employees are doing remote work, it can be hard for them to unplug from working and set aside time for health and wellness. When managers support their employees in pursuing healthy activities, or even just model it themselves, it can get workers to prioritize their own wellness. When they do so, it is highly likely to make them more of an asset to the team. Healthy employees work more productively and they may feel more engaged and motivated to help the company hit its business objectives.
5. Create a remote work policy to prevent management challenges.
Employers can prevent many remote work challenges by creating employee policies specifically for working remotely. These policies should address expectations for productivity, working time and schedules, whether remote workers are expected to get childcare, how a home office space should be set up for safety reasons, and what kind of work can be done from home versus what must be done at the office. When these items are spelled out, the whole team will be on the same page and avoid miscommunications and frustrations. Policies like these can help an office avoid claims of discrimination or lawsuits, too. They will set expectations and ensure that managers and employees meet them uniformly. It will also be important to ensure that all remote workers (and those who work from the office) read and provide a signed acknowledgement of this policy. HR departments should take these acknowledgements from their office and remote workers and keep them on file in the office. If the policy is updated, the HR department should take new acknowledgements from office and remote workers.
6. Use employee engagement surveys to identify challenges
Sometimes employers find that it’s hard to spot burnout in those who do remote work. When they can’t visually observe their remote team at work, managers don’t know if their people are engaged or burnt out. An anonymous or named survey of the team can help managers find out how people really feel. They can also help managers decide how best to support people who aren’t feeling engaged in their work. (MP’s software can help managers send and analyze these kinds of surveys.)
7. Create, enforce, and model boundaries for remote working
Employers will find that their remote team has higher productivity when their day has clear boundaries and schedules. When employees are working from home, it can become difficult for them to unplug from office life because they work in their home. This can quickly lead to burnout. Employers can help their team that does remote work by setting and modeling clear boundaries and a set work day. Managers can frequently sign off in a public way at the end of day. They can make sure that the people on their team know they are done for the day, thus suggesting that everyone should be done working for the day. Managers should also neither respond to, nor send, emails after the end of the work day. When they celebrate accomplishments, they should not publicly celebrate work that is done by putting in extreme hours after the work day. The best achievements to recognize are the ones done by people who are productive within the usual work day.
8. Invest time in building strong relationships with workers
When teams are working from home, managers should dedicate extra time to build relationships with them. When people work in the office, there are is plenty of spontaneous time to chat and connect with people: at the water cooler, at lunch, waiting in line for something from the printer, etc. That time needs to be consciously built into interactions with people when they are working from home. Managers should start or end a meeting with a little time for small talk. They should ask their people about what is important to them, what they do for fun outside of work, and just generally how their day is going. This kind of talk might seem less productive, but it shouldn’t be counted among daily distractions. A team that is connected on a personal level can work better together, get more done, and will feel more engaged in their work.
9. Make sure that worker’s compensation insurance covers those working from home
If an employer allows remote work, they may still get worker’s compensation claims. Before deciding to permanently allow remote work, an employer should check with their worker’s compensation insurance to get an idea of what is and is not covered. They can also protect the company by adding a section into the remote work policy. This section should require that employees who work from home set up a clear, clean space for work. This will eliminate the possibility of tripping and falling accidents, which may still be successful as worker’s compensation claims. The section should also require an employee doing remote work to have a working fire extinguisher easily accessible and close by at any time. Lastly, employers can require an employee to allow them to come and inspect their remote work setup within a few days of a worker’s compensation claim accident.
10. Offer mental health days to your team, those working remote and who work from the office
For the most productive remote work, employees need the ability to take a mental health day at least once a year. As discussed previously, burnout is a pernicious problem among those who do remote work. It can be exceedingly difficult for them to unplug and stop working when their office is at home. Working from home can sometimes make an employee feel like their day never truly ends. Allowing, and even encouraging, the remote team to take a mental health day can help them reset and come back to working at an even more productive pace. To avoid discrimination concerns, employers that offer mental health days for those doing remote work should also offer the same to their team that does not work from home. Again, this will only make employees more productive. After they take a day off, they can reset and get back to working with more energy and engagement.
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