Working from home is hardly a new concept. But the pandemic upended the work environments of many businesses. Some managers may have recently found themselves helming a team not from a nearby cubicle but from miles away for the first time, and under stressful circumstances.
Even in normal circumstances, however, moving employees to a work-from-home model can change the dynamics of how business gets done, points out executive coach Amy Sanchez, and leaves less time for spontaneous interpersonal communication and team relationship-building.
Managers may not know how to manage at-home employees well — or keep them satisfied.
Kristen Ehrlich, lead coach at Ethos Coaching Group, says data shows that the key to managing employees remotely is to keep them engaged, which also increases work satisfaction. “An unsatisfied employee equals an employee who will look elsewhere for work, leading to turnover, burnout, and over all less quality in their work performance,” she says. On the flip side, satisfied employees achieve better results, which, in turn, makes managers look better, Ehrlich explains.
Check out how experts explain how managers can help employees succeed (and stay satisfied) from home.
Check in frequently and consistently.
Ehrlich recommends that managers regularly check in with their employees, via calls and videos, so that they don’t experience “video call fatigue.” She says that during the pandemic, check-ins can reassure your team and provide some level of security. “Being a resource to them — even when they cannot see you daily — will ensure greater success in the long run by creating a sense of support that people need right now,” Ehrlich says. Even outside the current climate, “checking in is the base point to ensure your people are able to work successfully remotely,” she explains.
Establish meeting-free times.
However, not having meetings can be as important as having them. Managers should consider establishing set times when meetings aren’t allowed, says Sanchez. “One of the large challenges with work-from-home is that people are in back-to-back video calls all day,” she says. “This means that there is little to no time to get actual work done and tend to basic needs, like eating and moving.” Setting guidelines about when meetings can be held, however, curbs the fatigue employees can feel, and frees up their time to pursue work and take care of their own needs.
Explicitly set expectations.
Employees appreciate knowing exactly what’s expected of them as they work from home, says Ehrlich. Let them know when they need to be available — and what practices to put in place when they are unavailable — and what tools they can use to maximize their efforts, for example. “Limit the number of surprises you might otherwise have avoided when you could check on them in the regular office space,” she says. “By doing this, employees aren’t confused by what they should be doing daily, and are able to accomplish and focus on what needs to be done.”
Optimize their work-from-home set up.
Some companies offer budgets to enable employees to invest in tools and equipment that make working from home easier — from ergonomic chairs to treadmills. “If your HR team has set up this type of program, highlight [it] to your team and encourage them to carve out time to take care of themselves,” says Sanchez. And if your employer doesn’t offer these kinds of perks, she encourages you to advocate for a budget to upgrade your employees’ home offices and even their work-from-home lives. “A sound mind and body contribute to increased productivity,” she says. “Employees who tend to their basic needs, like getting exercise … will perform better overall.”
Without those in-person conversation near the communal coffee pot, your team may not feel as close. But “there are so many new tech innovations happening right now trying to adjust for the new working and living style we are all facing, and some of them are pretty fun,” says Ehrlich. Explore tools such as Toucan that support virtual happy hours, or live streaming group events where you can all connect and watch movies or play games, she suggests. “The more your team feels like they are still a team,” Ehrlich says, “the more they can rely on each other, collaborate, and remember why the company is a great place to work.”
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