MANAGING REMOTE WORKERS EFFICIENTLY

MANAGING REMOTE WORKERS EFFICIENTLY

June 27, 2020

Over the past few months, businesses throughout the globe had to undergo a massive transformation in their approach to work and co-ordination of activities. With offices under lockdown, employees had to start working from home. Even though various social media platforms are available, managing entire organizations online is a challenge itself. For organizations such as Microsoft, this is not much of a challenge, their workforce is familiar with the use of Microsoft Teams and they are well adapted to work remotely. However, not all businesses have the resources needed or staff who are skilled enough to work online.

However, in the present situation, working online is the only way to keep businesses going. Businesses have to set up their operating procedures and communication methods to monitor and coordinate activities.

 

SETTING IT UP

Before an organization goes online to conduct its activities, a clear framework has to be devised.  First, it has to be ensured that the team leaders or managers know the SOPs and have managed to establish a connection with the topmost level. The team leaders will then in turn assist the team members to connect with them. Decentralizing the whole process will make it easier to manage and will enable each unit to function independently without affecting others.

The basic framework should include the platforms on which online interactions will take place. Zoom Meetings are a popular choice for this purpose as the platform is easy to understand and operate. Central storage where important documents can be stored or retrieved as required. The storage has to be secured enough to prevent breaches of security and loss of valuable information is also necessary. Google Drive folders are quite useful in this case as they are easy to use and access can be controlled.

Working remotely also means using a limited number of tools. This is important because not all members may have access to an entire array of tools at home. Hence, careful selection has to be made to ensure all members have access and are familiar with their use.

The most important barrier for working from home is the psychological barrier. People who usually work from offices may not be able to concentrate properly.  A cultural change is therefore needed.  People have to realize they have to adapt to the situation and carry on. Without the co-operation of all the members involved, working remotely is unlikely to have any significant contribution to keep the company going. For all activities to continue harmoniously, proper leadership is needed. The team leaders have to step up and lead by example. They have to motivate others to give an honest effort and continue working. Communications have to be made transparent and quick. Everyone should be aware of what is going on around them.  In such situations, someone has to be given the authority to take instant decisions. In many cases, everyone might not be available online at the instant a problem arises. Therefore in those emergencies, someone must be able to make crucial decisions.  To sum everything up, a clear guideline and SOP has to be provided by the top-level management to ensure there is no mismanagement and opportunities can still be exploited while working remotely.

 

THE “OFFICE LIKE” FEELING

It is not possible to create the entire office environment at home. However, to somewhat extent, the use of interactive digital platforms will enable team members to stay connected and continue working as a team. Appropriate platforms should be selected for working online. The platforms should enable team members to have virtual “Hallway Conversations” or “walking over to someone else’s desk”.

The team members will not only communicate with themselves but also with the team leader. Feedback channels have to be clearly defined and continuously monitored. The team leader should choose the communication method carefully so that confidential conversations or documents are not intercepted by someone else.

Meetings have to be conducted virtually. In such cases, the content of the meeting should be kept small and the discussion has to be made short and precise.  The team members have to be trained on the use of digital tools and feedback has to be taken to figure out which tools are most needed. The entire management approach has to be revised. Deadlines and working hours have to be made flexible and co-ordination has to be ensured.

The clients also have to be informed about the new procedures for client interaction while working remotely. The limitations have to communicate so that the clients would consider any problem that might arise and consider them.

In many offices, team members have regular sessions of relaxing and recreational activities. In many cases, it becomes an important part of their corporate culture. This keeps them motivated and fosters team spirit. During the lockdown, interactive fun activities can still be arranged. For example, team members can play online games and watch movies together using Netflix.

Staying busy with work helps to keep one distracted from the bad news about the pandemic. Communicating regularly with peers and feeling a bit of their daily work environment at home will help people to remain mentally healthy and fairly productive.

 

CHALLENGES

Even though resources are available for working remotely, it is still not a norm and problems can now and then.  The primary problem might be a distraction. Many of the workers are likely to live with their families and work from home. They might also have certain duties for their families. For instance, a working mother might have to frequently attend her child while working because the babysitter cannot come and her husband is also busy with work. Some might have elderly or sick parents and have to look after them, this can also cause interruptions.

Managers might be concerned about the level of effort the others are giving in their work. Access to information might be interrupted because of faulty communication channels.

Miscommunication can occur as nobody is being able to interact physically and understand the correct meaning behind a message.

Problems related to feedback and technical errors can be corrected by appropriate training and SOPs. Other problems such as distractions have to be handled through co-operation and understanding. Schedules and deadlines have to be made flexible keeping everyone’s needs in mind.  The managers have to be proactive in most of the cases. To avoid underproductivity managers can use real-time communication systems to get continuous updates. Essential documents and information must be made available to everyone. Most importantly there have to be effective and efficient feedback methods and channels to ensure there is no misunderstanding regarding any message and the communication process is complete.

 

SUMMING UP

The office environment has certain components that can never be replaced using digital technology.  Still, people have to adapt to the changes and continue working on it. In some parts of the world, such as Beijing, people are appreciating the new norm of working remotely. This is because the inhabitants have more time for leisure as they do not have to remain stranded in the Beijing traffic for hours in the end. Working remotely also presents managers with the opportunity to assess which segments of business remain most active during periods of working remotely. However, psychologists warn that working remotely can cause loneliness and this can reduce the productivity of the workers. Also, without physical interaction in an office, a culture or team spirit is not easily fostered or maintained. The culture and team spirit have a crucial role in worker motivation. The absence of these two can result in poor levels of motivation which in turn leads to poor output. In conclusion, it can be said that working remotely can be used as a contingency plan to keep business going for a short period. But both technological and cultural developments are still needed if it is to continue in the long run.

 

Written by

Raiyan Mehdin Hassan

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