Managing people is often the most difficult part of a job. And even if the manager has had formal training, most of that focuses on managing when the manager and employee are face-to-face.
COVID-19 changed the work environment so that people are now working from home; yet those employees still need to be managed.
I came across an interesting article on Achieve Engagement’s website written by Jody Ordioni. She offered tips on how to manage remote workers to foster employee engagement.
Her first suggestion was to establish a daily check-in system with the people you supervise. That makes a lot of sense to me. It is likely that when a manager and an employee were in the same office that they had daily contact. This made it easy for employees to ask questions and surface concerns. While working remotely, an employee may be hesitant to call his or her manager with a concern. A check-in — either one-on-one or as a team — provides a space for employees to bring up concerns and ask questions.
It is a good idea to include some time for social interaction in these regular check-in calls. Allow employees to make small talk or share things from their personal lives at the beginning of the meeting. One good technique I have seen some managers use is to have each person in the meeting talk about one good thing that happened in their personal life and one win from their professional life that occurred since the group last got together.
Make sure your employees have the technology they need including access to video calling apps. Ordioni reminds us that being able to see your employees can give visual cues as to how they are doing. Body language is a great way to tell how an employee is really feeling and tells a fuller story than what you get from just hearing their voice.
Make sure you have clearly defined rules of engagement not only for frequency and timing of your regular meetings but also for more urgent matters. Employees need to feel comfortable about being able to contact a manager if a major problem or emergency arises. In addition, if you sense that an employee is stressed about a project, it is OK to ask them how they are doing and if they need assistance with the project or just to talk through how to handle any problems.
Having employees work remotely adds challenges for managers. Establishing regular avenues of communication will help both employees and managers stay on task and be productive in the work-from-home environment.
Jane Clark focuses on managing the member services operation at NationaLease as vice president of member services. She works to strength member relationships, reduce member costs, and improve collaboration within the NationaLease supporting groups.