The pandemic has reset the way we work and manage teams. Here are some effective strategies to ensure that your teams are staying connected and are productive while working remotely.
The future of work is now.
In the wake of the pandemic, organizations across the globe urged their teams to move out of the office and into the safety of their homes.
If you think about it, leaders of companies, both big and small, have ever since been dealing with the distinct shift of managing a remote workforce — a reality that was reserved for the future.
“The true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis.”
When a crisis such as a global pandemic hits, it unleashes tensions galore. It leaves most of us grappling with weighty decisions on remote work policies, travel restrictions et al.
The outbreak of the pandemic brought about drastic changes that required us to act, act quickly! It’s safe to say that we have never before experienced change at this pace and scale. While shifting to a remote-first setup is challenging in many ways, it shakes up the very essence of workforce management. It requires managers to recalibrate how they will lead their teams.
According to PWC, at the start of the pandemic — reduction in productivity was one of the top concerns for 41% of finance leaders. While recent reports suggest that close to 77% of remote workers believe they have been more productive when working from home, there are many challenges that need to be tackled time and again.
Remote work comes with its own challenges
As the pandemic begins to ease and companies are now looking to either get back to the office or take on a hybrid model, it may seem like we have come to terms with this new way of work.
Even so, remote work didn’t turn out to be rosy for many people.
One of the bigger challenges that 27% of the employees working remotely face is the inability to unplug from work after the working hours are over.
Among other difficulties that remote workers struggle with was loneliness — which is a given, especially in the absence of informal social interactions that traditional office spaces offer.
Disruption in communication and collaboration flows were also seen to be some of the most common issues that the virtual workforce had to cope with.
These remote work challenges cannot be ignored and demands immediate attention from the leadership. When you’re in the midst of a rapidly changing environment and you have very little time at hand, establishing clear-cut remote work policies in advance, may not be possible.
Nevertheless, from my experience and conversations with friends in the industry, there are some effective steps that can be taken to improve productivity and build engagement among remote work employees.
Key strategies to manage the virtual workforce effectively
When crisis strikes, leaders are looked upon to provide direction and stability! Here’s how to take on this responsibility and live up to it:
- Establish a definite structure: If you ask me, employees have been heroic in taking on the challenges of remote work and have been quick to adapt to this new way of work. What we need to do is set clear expectations and build an effective structure for teams to function seamlessly.
- Supercharge employee connections: Communication has always been key in the workplace. With isolated teams, it’s important to set clear communication guidelines to ensure your team is staying connected.
- Bank on technology: Harnessing the power of technology plays a major role in a remote work setting. Be sure to equip your teams with the right arsenal of tools and channels to increase their productivity.
- Secure your systems: This one is a major concern, especially for those of us in the financial services industry. Dealing with the security risks around remote work can be challenging. How are you securing your systems? Can they handle peak loads and outages? It’s important that you have procedures in place to secure the daily workflow of your remote teams.
Bonus point: Bridge the culture gap
Additionally, when you’re leading from the front, you also need to pay heed to keep the workplace culture intact during such unprecedented times.
Traditional concepts of workforce management no longer hold good. Leaders have been in the pursuit of finding new ways to translate the company culture into a virtual setting.
For decades now, culture has been a deciding factor that immensely impacts an employee — right from engagement levels to morale and the overall satisfaction quotient.
Leaders need to embrace change with open arms and take an informed approach to culture building. This is crucial to bring in a broader sense of alignment between remote workers and organizational goals.
Acing remote work with empathy and trust
What comes to my mind as I write this is — the importance of building trust in such unsettling times.
I had bookmarked this tweet a while ago as it’s much in line with my reflections.
Teams that struggle with remote productivity do not have communication down.
To sustain remote work post-pandemic, we need leaders who are more than skilled coders.
We need leaders who can communicate effectively, with empathy, and in actionable, meaningful ways.
— Novall Swift (@NovallSwift) September 24, 2020
For those of us in the leadership seat, what the last two years have taught us is to lead with ‘empathy and trust’, be it in a virtual or in an in-person setting. The onus is on the leadership to lead with heart in the face of uncertainty and change.
According to Gallup, in recent years, the percentage of employees who strongly believe that their organization cares about their safety and overall wellbeing has gone up from 45% to 49%. It’s on us to ensure that we keep this an upward rising trend.
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