Under the social distancing and self-isolation guidelines set by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus, many companies have asked employees to work from home. For many, the new policies have separated employees from their managers for the first time.
It is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance; however, the sudden progression of the current pandemic means that for most this level of preparation is not feasible.
Managers need to understand the factors that can make working from home especially demanding, here are some common challenges inherent in remote work:
Lack of face-to-face supervision
The lack of face-to-face interaction is a common concern for both managers and employees. Supervisors worry that employees will not work as hard or effectively while many employees struggle with reduced access to support and communication.
Lack of access to information
Employees who are new to working from home are surprised by the added time and effort need to get information from co-workers. Getting answers to simple questions can feel like a complicated task to a worker based at home.
Employees tend to miss the informal social interaction they get in an office or other work setting with loneliness as one of the most common complaints about remote work. Over a long period of time isolation can cause an employee to feel less of a sense of belonging to the organisation they work for.
Distractions at Home
In sudden transitions to remote or virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will have suboptimal workspaces (rather than established and dedicated work areas in their home). Family and home demands can interfere with remote work, not to mention distractions such as the television and social media.
Here are some simple tips for how managers can support remote employees:
Establish daily check-ins
This could take the form of one-on-one calls or group chats with a team or email interactions.
Use several forms of communication
Email alone is not enough, try Skype, Facetime or Video conferencing, video is useful as it feels more personal than the written word.
Provide opportunities for remote socialisation
Structure ways for employees to interact socially such as work group-chats on Facebook.
Give encouragement and emotional support
Check in with employees to make sure they are coping, especially when there has been an abrupt shifty to remote work.