3 Ways Leaders Can Support Remote Workers
While the Coronavirus crisis dominates headlines, team leaders are left with an unusual predicament. Their team now works from home in a new environment, their jobs have changed direction in the past few weeks and they are likely harboring feelings of doubt, unease and anxiety toward the global health crisis we now know so well.
These are unprecedented times, and the team leader’s role has evolved as a result. Of course, it’s important to maintain some professional normality – a leader can (and should) provide professional support to their team, be this helping to optimize their team member’s work-from-home processes or taking this opportunity to promote learning and development.
However, leaders need to be cognizant that these are worrying and challenging times, too. Given the lack of face-to-face contact, it’s now harder to gauge an employee’s state of mind.
Leaders have a responsibility to create a sense of support, trust and safety for employees. What can they do to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their workers?
Here are some ways a leader can provide personal support to workers during times of uncertainty:
During worrisome times, it is critical to communicate transparently and consistently with your teams. It is just as important to listen to your employees’ concerns and stresses as this is a challenging period for all. Workers will be supported and motivated by honest conversations.
Be Honest and Consistent
It is important leaders communicate honestly and consistently with their teams, this will reduce feelings of work-related anxiety and stress while ensuring employees feel valued and aware of what is happening across the organization.
This time provides leaders with the opportunity to build trust with workers. Informing employees of the plans of the company provides peace of mind and reassures team members.
Touch Base Often and Early
Touching base early on a daily basis is the best way to communicate with remote teams. Questions, discussions and feedback should be encouraged to foster and drive collaboration, engagement and teamwork.
Leaders should take this an opportunity to lead by example, frequently reaching out to teams and employees to communicate openly and support workers through these changes.
Encourage Being Seen
A report released earlier this year found 70% of remote workers tend to feel left out despite having the communication tools and technology to be part of important meetings and events at work. The report found remote workers face challenges they would not usually face in the office environment.
Leaders should incorporate a communications culture where digital technologies such as video conferencing are used frequently, ensuring workers are visually engaged and actively involved in meetings. When remote teams are engaged, they are more likely to show ownership of their work.
Making adjustments under the current circumstances will be necessary. By providing the needed resources and support, employees will be more confident in tackling these modifications to their work processes.
In order to become more flexible, leaders can take actions such as reviewing the goals of the team and the individuals within it to reflect the situation, trusting in the team to deliver on what they’ve promised, and buying into the idea of flexible working schedules.
During uncertain times, it is important to acknowledge that change is inevitable. Ultimately a number of these issues will be out of any organizations control, thus embracing these challenges and adjusting your team’s KPIs is important.
Encourage your team to adapt to change. Schedule time to review individual and team goals, assess what needs to be changed/dropped/integrated.
Trust Your Team
Remote working presents many challenges including distractions, lack of engagement and decreased visibility into your team’s day-to-day activity. It can be challenging to maintain accountability during this time – that’s why trust is so important.
Leaders should encourage a culture of transparency. This allows teams to have an idea of their team members responsibilities, which manages expectations and promotes accountability. This could be as simple as sharing a weekly report so your team can see what others are working on.
Offer employees the opportunity to develop their skills to deal with change management and virtual meetings. As a result, they’ll feel prepared for the challenge ahead and see valuable investment from their team leader in their career.
Team leaders should promote this time as an opportunity to learn for 3 reasons:
- Learning maximizes performance
- Learning increases workplace effectiveness
- Learning refines communication skills
Adjusting to remote working requires team members to reshape their schedules and processes. It is important to provide workers with the tools and skills they need to continue working and completing their regular tasks so they can maximize their performance.
Learning and development tools are accessible digitally and can provide employees with the knowledge needed to continue thriving in their role. For example, online courses examining emotional intelligence and performing under pressure can develop employees’ essential soft skills for the future of work.
Being Effective in the Workplace
If your workplace has recently introduced a work from home policy, this will be a completely new way of working for many team members. In line with remaining productive, it is critical employees know there are opportunities to continue their personal and professional development plan so they can remain effective despite the change in circumstance.
For example, an online course on managing time effectively can help employees complete their tasks and remain engaged and motivated. Courses to demonstrate how to run a successful remote meeting and manage remote teams directly influence workers ability to perform in their new working environment. This time may also present an opportunity for workers to upskill and reskill in a new area to ensure they can continue to add value to their team.
Refining Communication Skills
Finally, working remotely creates a new dynamic for teams who collaborate frequently in an office environment. It takes more than simply allowing teams to work from a different location to facilitate a positive and engaged remote working culture. It requires several changes and a comprehensive strategy.
It is important to provide workers with the skills to communicate effectively with their newly remote teammates. These may include virtual training on developing communication and collaboration skills ensuring employees have the ability to communicate effectively with team members while working from home.
During an uncertain time, leadership is essential. While there are so many unknowns, team members should know exactly where they stand with both the company and within the team. A degree of flexibility should be granted to help them deal with whatever challenges they may be facing. Finally, they should be afforded the opportunity to adapt and change as a result of the situation, making learning and development a key business element consideration.