Dos and Don’ts of Managing Remote Workers

As we round out 2020,  I can’t help but hope that when we awake on (US) New Year’s Day, we will realize that this was an unpleasant dream.  Unfortunately, the probabilities of this happening are slim to none.  In reality, we continue to persevere through a pandemic, while grappling with some of the same professional topics. Managing remote workers is a prime example. A year ago, remote work was presented as a recruitment and retention tool on the menu of workplace flexibility options.  However, today, it has become a necessary work function. 

Having a workforce involuntarily transition to remote work can present different sets of challenges. They include onboarding new employees, leaders who find it difficult to make the shift and reduced engagement. However, working remotely also provides employees opportunities for increased creativity and autonomy. Both of which are great leadership skills. Leaders who are supportive and provide regular feedback set the stage for professional growth. This can eventually encourage employees to seek stretch assignments and eventually become the obvious choice for promotions.  Leaders play a major role in employees’ success and the same is true for remote workers. 

Employees desire to feel part of an organization that treats their employees in an inclusive and equitable manner. Here are a few suggestions on managing remote teams-

a Increase communication- Take time to connect with remote employees whether it’s through email, IM or face time to keep the lines of communication open. This also reiterates their importance to the team. Increasing communication with remote workers also increases engagement and ensure that everyone on the team stays informed.

r Avoid the urge to micromanage- Studies indicate remote workers work on average 4 more hours a week than their in-office counterparts.  This is attributed to flexible schedules and reduced commute times. Managers cannot monitor what employees are working on 100% of the time, whether they’re working in or out of the office. The goal is to focus on results. Productivity is evident based on results.

a Set clear expectations- communicate individual and team goals up front and often.  Having regular debrief sessions to review tasks and projects, are a way of ensuring clarity of expected outcomes. It also continues to demonstrate how their work aligns with reaching team and organizational goals. 

a Be flexible- Recognizing the diversity of your employee base and managing them as such, ensures their individual professional needs are met. Understanding differences in scheduling is important, especially when remote workers are juggling so many things during the day. Agreeing on definite times for availability is important.  It demonstrates empathy and trust for both parties and will be remembered once we emerge from the current crisis. 

r Don’t take advantage- Working remote sometimes means going above and beyond for some.  Remote workers want to prove they can be trusted when not in the office.  Encourage employees to take breaks and take advantage of vacation time.  When employees fail to draw the line between work and personal time, this can present professional and personal issues.

 

Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD

https://www.linkedin.com/in/takiyah-cunningham/

 

 

 Mental Health in the Workplace

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

This is a time of excitement, change and fear. We are excited about the crisp air of fall and its beautiful foliage. Also, nearing the end of the (calendar) year, organizations are evaluating business performance and planning next year’s goals. A lot of us are excited to round third base of 2020 and put it behind us.

Our human experience over the past months has been connected by allowing us to share our acquaintance with unexpected change. There have been changes  in how we enjoy our favorite sports, celebrate holidays, life events and in our workplace operational practices.

Yet, lately, the underpinning of some of our professional and personal decisions are now derived out of fear. When will we feel safe about our children returning to school or our safe return to the workplace? Flu season is upon us, how will this affect the workforce during a pandemic?  These life events affect us in many ways,  including our mental health. There are individuals who have never experienced mental health issues until now. And those who are too familiar with  trying hard to function daily. 

Leaders, there is a huge opportunity to aid workers, by intently listening and regularly communicating available resources for coping with mental illness and creating work spaces where employees feel empowered to act when things seem out of sync.

Working in an environment that is encouraging, nurturing and perceived as inclusive can have positive effects on employees’ mental health. It also increases productivity. According to the CDC, “Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time…” Additionally, “Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression and 40% of those who report severe depression receive treatment to control depression symptoms.” As we create strategies around engagement and inclusion, creating expectations for regular check ins with employees to build greater rapport, understand professional challenges and observe changes in behavior and performance can provide needed support

There are many resources available to organizations. Below, Human Resource Executive provides several strategies for assisting employees suffering from mental health issues.

  • Leadership—Role model a mental-health-friendly workplace from the upper echelons.
  • Organizational/Environmental Support—Implement an accessible mental-health plan
  • Communication—Frequently share information about policies, programs, benefits, resources and training.
  • Programs and Benefits—Offer comprehensive benefits that center mental health.
  • Engagement—Invite employees at all levels to take part in decision-making about mental health in the workplace.
  • Community Partnerships—Involve community stakeholders in executing the mental-health plan.
  • Reporting Outcomes:Continuously enhance offerings to improve employee well-being.

Mental health is as important as our physical health. Ensuring your organization has clear and openly discussed mental health support strategies builds a workforce that is trusting, engaged, productive and healthier.

 

Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD
https://www.linkedin.com/in/takiyah-cunningham/

 

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