The New Normal – Remote Work Best Practices for Engagement & Productivity

It was just a little over four months ago when Californians were ordered to shelter-in-place. Many organizations worked swiftly to give their employees remote work capabilities to continue business operations and service their clients. There was little time to properly prepare for the unknowns of remote work, especially for businesses who were not accustomed to managing virtual teams. There was no training for employees and managers on best practices, policies, home office set up or technology for efficient communication and collaboration.

As businesses continue to navigate through this pandemic, there is a need to reimagine work and the role of offices to create a safe, productive, and enjoyable environment for employees. However, as with anything, a one size fits all approach is not practical for businesses or the various needs of their employees.

Depending on the role, its duties and responsibilities, you will find jobs suitable for full remote capabilities, a hybrid approach, or roles that cannot be performed outside of an office environment. An all or nothing approach is not ideal for the future of work. To get the most of your employees, consider the following best practices:

  1. Have a policy or agreement in place for employees to understand your expectations for them regarding work performance and productivity. When and where team meetings should occur, who should attend them, and what behavior is expected during those meetings. Additionally, list core working hours when employees are expected to be online or in the office, as well as expected response times to emails, calls, instant messages, etc. Include expectations of communication tools and check-ins. Remember, every individual’s circumstance is different. Additional flexibility should be considered to manage their personal and work life. It is essential to set clear expectations regarding employee obligations to follow your policies regarding meal and rest breaks, and harassment prevention.
  2. Ensure employees have a comfortable and productive home office. Do your employees have a place where they can have a quiet space for meetings or focused work? Do they have high speed internet, a desk, or table? It might make sense to allow employees to use their office chair, keyboard, and additional monitor to work comfortably at home. Do they need a webcam? Do they have a contact list for employees? It might make sense to provide a list of apps for web conferencing or collaboration.
  3. Train employees and managers to help them transition into the remote work environment. Train employees on accountability and time management as they are juggling home and work simultaneously. Train and nurture proactive communication to manage this work-life balance. Train managers on building trust, setting performance expectations that are result-based.
  4. Communicate frequently as a team, and individually to build trust and engage with employees. Employees should be reminded of the results or outcomes they are responsible for, and how they are measured. Managers should be looking at results produced versus the time spent on a project or task. This should serve to minimize the potential of micromanaging or creating a lack of trust among remote workers. Weekly check-ins allow you to hold teams and individuals accountable as well as track progress or address roadblocks. Listen to your employees. Ask: How can I, or we, support you? Incorporate fun by having a virtual lunch or happy hour. At your next check-in meeting spend the first few minutes seeing how everyone’s weekend was, and let everyone contribute. The outcome is having an engaged team, producing desired results, and building a strong working relationship in a remote environment.

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