Managing Remote Employees During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many scenarios could cause employees to need to work remotely. From minor illnesses to sudden life changes to global health problems, it’s important to be prepared to keep business moving even if employees cannot physically make it into the office. For example, with the COVID-19 outbreak, many organizations large and small are taking steps to keep both employees and the public safe from infection. This includes employees being asked to work from home. Between situations like this and the rise of younger generations entering the workforce and demanding work from home options, it’s important to keep your company prepared and capable to handle remote employees.

Happy man with headphones working on laptop in a cafe.

Reasons Employees to Work Remotely

The reasons why employees work remotely vary from need to want. Whether the request to work remotely comes out of necessity or due to employee preferences, it’s important to hear out the request. At any given time, there could be several factors contributing to their desire to work from home. Of those employees who already do work remotely, 99 percent say that they would like to continue to have the option for remote work for the rest of their careers and 95 percent said they would recommend it to others.

The statistics are clear: most employees want the option to work from home. 74 percent of employees would be willing to quit their current job in favor of a new job that has a work from home policy. 31 percent of employees would like to work from home, but their current company won’t allow it. 26 percent of employees have already quit a job that didn’t allow any flexibility to work remotely. Of the employees surveyed, here are the top reasons they indicated they would like to work remotely, listed from most to least important:

  • Saves money
  • Ability to work anywhere
  • More time with family
  • Ability to be more productive at home
  • Mental health reasons
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Time with pets
  • Affordable relocation
  • Starting a family
  • Care for elderly family members

Benefits of Remote Work for Employers

Working from home doesn’t just offer perks for employees. Workplaces also stand to see benefits from allowing employees time to work remotely. One major reason is that the workplace can be full of distractions with dozens of people working in close proximity. Loud colleagues, impromptu meetings and various interruptions can make the average workplace a difficult place to concentrate. Working from home can eliminate such distractions and reduce the stress that comes from them. Having employees work remotely also reduces company overhead and prepares the organization for future workplace trends. Here are some of the top benefits for employers of allowing employees to work remotely:

  • Lowered overhead costs – Office-related expenses are significantly reduced when employees work from home
  • Increased productivity – When employees no longer have to stress over commutes or fight off office distractions, their work output improves
  • More part-time workers – It’s no secret that having more part time workers saves money. With increased flexibility options, people tend to be more likely to accept part-time positions
  • Access to a larger talent pool – These days employees are looking for organizations that offer perks to employment such as work from home days. Top talent will know that they can get top perks. Furthermore, from an employer’s perspective, this opens you up to contractors; hiring contractors means not having to get a full payroll involved and instead only paying for the work produced as opposed to full time hours

Best Ways to Manage Remote Employees

If you decide to create and/or expand a work from home policy, several methods will make the process go more smoothly:

1. Provide the Right Tools

Your remote employees should have the same tools they would have in the office. They need key files, software, information updates, deadlines, etc. There are endless software programs available specifically for managing remote teams that can be helpful, as well.

2. Keep the Company Culture Alive

Even though your team isn’t physically together, there should still exist a sense of togetherness and community between everyone working on projects together. Company culture includes your values, goals and communication styles. Before you transition employees to remote roles, revisit company values with them.

3. Communicate Well

Now is a good time to assess your communication style. How will it translate to an online format? Can you anticipate any changes you’ll need to make in your leadership style? There will likely be room for improvement, so seek regular feedback from your remote employees on what’s working well and what’s causing problems.

4. Set Clear Expectations

Respect remote employees as much as you respect employees who are physically in the office. Let them know exactly what is expected of them and hold them accountable. Communicate goals, timelines and deliverables regularly and efficiently

HR expert Felicia Kohlenberger of Glanbia Performance Network has been dealing with remote employees throughout her career. She recommends strategizing with remote employees in a way that keeps them involved in the company’s greater goals and overall culture, no matter where they are. Part of this involves routinely traveling to meet with remote employees to help them feel involved, valued and connected. The goal is to have everyone operating from the same playbook regardless of location or job position. Beyond this, experts recommend regular phone calls or video meetings with remote employees in which these employees are invited to share their insights and opinions about current events for the company. The key is to keep remote employees from ever feeling isolate.

Gallup explores ways leaders can change their methodologies and behaviors concerning remote employees in a 2019 study. They recommend that leaders stay flexible with remote employees, citing that a growing number of individuals in the American workforce are willing to leave jobs when flexible work from home policies are not allowed. Flexible work options are becoming more of a requirement than a perk. It’s going to be increasingly important for managers to adapt their leadership strategies to adapt to more remote employees. Even from a distance, managers should be able to motivate team members, be assertive enough to drive consistent outcomes, communicate a clear culture of accountability, build relationships that create trust and loyalty and make difficult decisions from afar.

Next Steps

Whether your organization has to take action during flu season, reduce overhead or simply cater to millennial and generation Z employees who prefer work from home options, it’s a good idea to examine your policy on remote work. KnowledgeCity’s course, “Managing Remote Employees” will help you get an idea of what allowing employees to work from home could look like for your company and how you can manage it in the best ways possible.

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