The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the way people live and work after stay-at-home orders sent employees entirely remote. Now, more than two years into the pandemic, many company executives and managers are having to completely reimagine what the workplace will look like in a post-pandemic environment. Organizations must deliberately face and address the same quandary: Should we switch to a permanent hybrid or remote work model or work towards a return to the office? A Bureau of Labor Statistics report published earlier this year found that among companies that increased remote work during the pandemic, more than 60% plan to keep increases permanent once the pandemic is over. Many companies are opting for hybrid or remote work models because they can help attract and retain top talent, increase productivity for individuals, and improve the employee experience through a flexible work schedule. While these benefits are significant, managing remote and hybrid teams can be challenging if not executed correctly. Some of the challenges associated with employees working from home that need to be acknowledged and addressed are the lack of face-to-face supervision/ interaction, proximity bias, social isolation, distractions at home, and lack of access to information.
Our leaders at Human Capital Solutions have put together 10 tips for avoiding the pitfalls and successfully managing remote and hybrid teams.
1) Practice servant leadership
The Great Resignation has ushered in a new style of leadership that puts a greater emphasis on the overall growth and well-being of employees. While companies have their external customers and clients, a servant leader views their employees as internal customers who are essential to the continued growth and health of the organization. Similar to how they treat external customers, servant leaders aspire for customer satisfaction and delight among their internal customers (employees) as well. That means ensuring all employees’ needs are met and gathering ideas and feedback on how the workplace and daily processes could improve.
2) Schedule daily check-ins
While daily check-ins may seem like overkill, it is critical for teams and organizations new to the remote work environment. A quick 10-minute conversation during the workday can keep employees engaged and feeling supported. It’s important that these check-ins do not feel like micromanaging. Those in a position of authority should make sure to emphasize the human connection first, and work second. In addition, these check-ins should be scheduled in advance out of respect for the employee’s potentially busy day.
When working with decentralized teams, it is essential that team members overcommunicate to communicate effectively.
“If you have a goal of adequately communicating, we’ll often under-communicate. Why? Because there is outside noise and competing agendas and business that decrease our initial level of communication,” said Bo Burch, CEO and Founder of Human Capital Solutions. “We are overwhelmed with information, so if I’m a CEO and I need to effectively communicate, I have to be very intentional with that exchange. If I’m not intentional, what will happen is the outside interference will diminish the communication.”
Think of this like sunlight hitting a sheer curtain. Most of the light makes its way into the room, but some of the light is filtered out. Some of our initial communication, the sunlight, gets filtered out by outside noise and conflicting agendas, the sheer curtain.
4) Provide resources and technology
While this tip may seem obvious, it is necessary to mention when considering what makes a remote work environment successful. Tools like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Asana have allowed employees to seamlessly transition to working from home. In addition, the pandemic expedited every company’s digital transformation plans, which in turn has refined and improved work-from-home technologies and systems.
5) Overcome proximity bias, include everyone
One of the challenges of remote and hybrid work models is proximity bias, which is the tendency for people in positions of authority to give preferential treatment to employees who are closest to them physically (those actually working in the office). Today’s leaders managing remote teams must be mindful of proximity bias and ensure intentional steps are being taken to overcome this bias, especially when it comes to measuring performance and contributions.
6) Demonstrate a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
In this tight labor market, employers who demonstrate a high level of “adaptability quotient” will emerge victoriously in attracting, developing, and retaining top talent. Typically, emotionally intelligent leaders possess a high level of “adaptability quotient.” It’s essential to mentor, not manage, your team to keep them motivated and inspired.
7) Create well-documented procedures, boundaries, and standards of excellence
Creating well-documented procedures, boundaries, and standards of excellence ensures everyone is on the same page even when outside the walls of the office. Setting clear expectations and requesting feedback on those expectations can help with alignment among employees and build trust.
8) Focus on outcomes, not activity
This tip ties in closely with tip number seven: setting clearly defined standards of excellence and metrics for your team. If desired business outcomes are established, then employees can be evaluated on outcomes achieved, not arbitrary factors like how many hours were logged at the desk. After all, while the process is important, it’s the end result that drives growth and success. This requires trust, flexibility, and a transparent understanding that work is based on results and not chair time. Allowing your employees to develop their own plan of execution can also increase creativity and ownership when it comes to their work.
9) Look for opportunities for collaboration
When employees are working from home and not getting the same face-to-face time they would receive in the office, identifying opportunities for collaboration can help build a sense of trust and camaraderie among coworkers.
10) Provide feedback, recognize good work
In any work environment, providing feedback and recognizing good work is vital for continuous improvement and increased morale. Showing remote or hybrid employees the same level of appreciation is a key part of creating a motivating work environment. Especially in uncertain times, a culture of praise helps increase engagement and resiliency.