Due to the circumstances necessitated by the outbreak of the Corona virus, many companies have asked their employees to continue working remotely. Telecommuting may not be new to some people, but policies to combat the coronavirus in many countries have led many managers and employees to leave their offices for the first time and work from home. In this article, we intend to get acquainted with the challenges of telecommuting and the problems faced by telecommuting managers and employees, and make suggestions to address the challenges of managing employees during telecommuting. Stay with us.
Although it is always best to plan and clarify work policies in advance, this amount of preparedness may not be available in such critical situations. Fortunately, managers can easily increase the productivity of telecommuters, even when there is little time to prepare, by taking steps that previous research has proven to be effective.
Common Telecommuting Challenges
First, managers must have a good understanding of the factors that make telecommuting difficult; Otherwise, employees who have previously been highly productive may be at a time of telecommuting and in the absence of proper planning and training, work commitment, and FunctionSean will be analyzed. Challenges in telecommuting include:
1. There was no surveillance
Both managers and employees are often concerned about the lack of face-to-face monitoring. Supervisors often worry that employees will not work as much as they should or that their efficiency and productivity will decrease. (Of course, research has proven the opposite, at least in some occupations.) On the other hand, many employees complain about reduced access to managerial resources and communications. In some cases, employees feel that telecommuters do not know their needs and therefore cannot help or support them in getting things done.
۲. Lack of access to information
Newly hired employees are often surprised by the extra time they have to move information between their co-workers. Even answering a seemingly simple question can be a big obstacle for a home-based employee.
This phenomenon can go beyond the scope of work and become an interpersonal challenge among teleworking colleagues. Research has shown that the lack of “shared knowledge” among telecommuters makes them less likely to trust each other in difficult situations. For example, you know that your co-worker is going through difficult times. In such a situation, if you receive a harsh e-mail from him, you will consider it stressful. However, if you receive such an email from your co-worker, you will most likely be upset or at least think that your co-worker is not acting professionally; Because you can not understand his current situation.
3. Social isolation
Loneliness and lack of social relationships in the workplace is one of the most common complaints that telecommuters have. Extroverts are thought to suffer more in the short term, especially if they do not have much contact with people outside their workplace. However, social isolation in the long run affects all employees and makes them feel less “belonging” to their organization and may even be more likely to quit.
4. Attention at home
Sometimes in pictures of telecommuters, we see them hugging their child, typing on a laptop, or lying on the couch or on the living room floor. In fact, this is a very bad image of a useful virtual work. We usually encourage employers to make sure their telecommuters have both a workplace and a proper childcare system before allowing employees to telework; However, when the decision to telecommute is made suddenly and without prior planning, employees are more likely to engage in inappropriate workplaces or (in situations such as the current situation where schools and kindergartens are closed) care problems with their children; Even under normal circumstances, the needs of home and family can affect telecommuting. Managers should expect these problems to increase in unusual circumstances such as the current situation.
How can managers support telecommuting employees?
Although telecommuting can be challenging, managers can make the transition easier with a few simple, low-cost tasks. Here are some things they can do:
1. Organized daily control
Many successful telecommuters have daily contacts with their telecommuters. If employees work independently of each other, these calls can be in the form of a set of individual calls, and if they work in groups, they can be group calls. The important thing is that these calls should be regular and predictable and there should be a forum where employees can easily talk to their manager in case of problems.
۲. Provide various communication technology options
Email alone is not enough. Telecommuters need richer technology, such as video conferencing, which allows them to communicate face-to-face. Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for smaller groups: it enhances the visual cues of “shared knowledge” about employees and improves the sense of social isolation between teams. Video is also especially useful for complex and sensitive conversations, as it is more personal than text or voice communication.
There are situations where quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. In such cases, you can use mobile-based personal messaging tools (such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft teams, etc.) that are suitable for simpler, more informal and faster conversations.
If your company does not have the necessary technology tools, there are inexpensive ways to get simpler versions of these tools temporarily for your team. Before using any of these tools, be sure to consult with your organization’s IT department to make sure there is an appropriate level of data security.
3. Apply communication rules
Telecommuting becomes more useful when managers set rules for communication tools and when and how much they communicate. For example, you can use video conferencing for day-to-day monitoring and instant messaging for essential tasks. You can also tell them the best way and the best time for employees to reach you during the day (for example, “It is more suitable for me for evening phone or video calls, but leave a message if you have urgent work during the day.” ). Finally, be careful about the communication between team members to make sure that the necessary information is exchanged well.
We recommend that managers set communication rules for employees as soon as possible. It is best to do this as soon as possible, even during the first online control session. While some communication rules are better than others, the important point is that the rules should be the same for all employees.
4. Create opportunities for remote social interactions
One of the most important steps a manager must take is to identify ways to create social interaction between employees (that is, informal conversations about non-work related topics). This is true for all employees, but it is even more important for employees who are suddenly forced to telecommute.
The easiest way to build social interaction is to set aside time at the beginning of teamwork for things that are not work-related (for example, “How many minutes do we want to say hello in the beginning? How did you spend the weekend?”). There are other options, such as a virtual pizza party (ie brought to all members of the pizza team during the videoconference) or a virtual business party (party packages already distributed among team members open at the same time and everyone celebrates together). While such events may seem artificial or forced, experienced telecommuters (and their employees) have reported that virtual events reduce social isolation and increase a sense of team belonging.
5. Emotional encouragement and support
Especially in situations like the current situation where employees are forced to work remotely without prior planning, managers need to understand their stress well, listen to employees’ concerns and anxieties, and empathize with them. If you find that a recently retired employee is stressed but does not show stress or anxiety, be sure to ask. Even a simple question like “What are you doing with telecommuting so far?” It can give you important information that you would never have understood if you had not asked this question. After asking this question, be sure to listen carefully and briefly recount your employee’s career to make sure you understand it correctly. Let the discussion focus on your employee’s worries and stresses, not your own.
Studies on emotional contagion and emotional contagion tell us that employees look to their managers to know how to react to sudden changes. If a manager has stress, this stress is passed on to his employees. Good managers take a two-pronged approach in such situations: they both understand the stress and anxiety that employees may have in difficult situations and by using phrases such as “We solve it” Or “It’s hard, but I know we can handle it.” Or “It’s better to find ways to use our strengths at such a time.” They prove to their employees that they trust them. With this support, we help employees overcome challenges by creating a sense of purpose and focus.
The last word
Now we send the same message to managers who have been forced to telework their employees in the current crisis: “We can.” If you are in such a situation, we would be happy for you to share your experiences with leading telecommuting staff.