After several tough months, things are finally starting to resemble normal again…
… or at least, COVID-normal – here in Victoria, masks are sticking around for a bit longer, as is the need to book restaurant tables weeks in advance.
Another thing that will probably stick around – and likely for good – is flexible working arrangements such as remote work.
According to many economists and pundits, we’re likely to see working from home (WFH) become a permanent staple of Australian working life, with more and more workplaces choosing to offer it as an option permanently now that it’s proven itself.
Of course, all of this means new challenges for managers and supervisors going forward.
Here are some of the most common issues with working from home that managers face – and in fact have probably faced over the last few months – as well as the right solution to overcome them.
Our recruitment agency in Melbourne explains the pitfalls of managing remote teams…
…and how to overcome them
After almost 9 months of remote working (here in Victoria, at least) the results are in: remote working, well, works… provided that you have a good system in place, that is.
Luckily, the several months-long experiment that many of us were forced to participate in means that all of the major blind spots and issues have been identified.
And more importantly, it means that managers, employees, and HR and recruitment agencies have all had time to figure out what needs to be done to avoid this.
Planning on carrying your WFH options forward even after things settle down? Stepping into a supervisory role at an organisation that’s gone remote? Or were you one of the hold-outs, and you’ve finally decided to give remote working a shot?
If so, you’ll want to take each of these suggestions on board – each of them have been tested by many supervisors before you.
Problem 1: communication
It’s easy to talk to one another when you’re all in the same office.
Remotely, however? That’s a different story.
The first few weeks of remote working were difficult as managers and supervisors adjusted and tried to figure out the proper etiquette:
- Email is too easy to miss and doesn’t convey a sense of urgency
- Would calling them be too intrusive?
- Is sending them a message after-hours okay?
- Are scheduled meetings being conducted professionally?
Any good manager or supervisor will be checking in with their team on a regular basis anyway – however, many in the beginning struggled to really make this formal or consistent, simply popping in on an ad-hoc basis.
Others went the complete opposite direction, micromanaging their team because they were worried things weren’t getting done.
Solution: regular check-ins using instant messaging (IM) and chat apps
As a manager, it’s important that your in-the-loop regarding what’s happening with your team – at the same time however, you don’t want to go completely overboard with it.
The best way to go about this is to drop by regularly and consistently, but not so frequently that it feels overbearing. That can mean:
- A meeting at the beginning of the week to go over weekly goals and tasks
- Daily chats with specific teams
- A weekly wrap-up on Friday to see how everyone travelled
We suggest looking at each team (and even each team member) individually and evaluating how capable they are of working independently. For example, an absolute gun of a salesperson who already works incredibly well on their own mightn’t need as frequent check-ins.
Of course, this gets a lot easier when you have the right infrastructure in place, like an instant messaging or video conference system in place – not only are they easier to use, but they’re much more intuitive as well!
Whatever you do, avoid using email – not only are replies slower, but depending on the volumes you deal with, it’s easy for important messages to get lost in a sea of replies and CCs.
Problem 2: deadlines
One of the key roles of any manager or supervisor is ensuring that their team is performing, that tasks are being completed on-time and that goals are being achieved.
It’s pretty easy to do when you all share an office space – but what if your entire team is working from home? What happens then?
This is one of the biggest challenges – it’s also one of the biggest hurdles that many organisations have to overcome when deciding whether or not to offer a remote working option.
Luckily, there are ways around that…
Solution: use project management and time-tracking tools
There are plenty of affordable project management tools out there that allow you to keep track of what your team’s up to – we suggest making use of them!
Tools and programs such as Teamwork, Slack, Basecamp, Asana and more can help you:
- Organise projects
- Create task lists
- Assign tasks to individual team members
- Share files, documents, and downloads
- Add project updates
- Track progress
- Measure time spent
Not only are these features great for keeping track of your team remotely, but they can also make your team’s work significantly easier now that they have an easy way of sharing data, communicating and organising themselves!
Problem 3: maintaining performance and work-life balance
One of the biggest problems that comes with remote work is nothing to do with work performance or deadlines – instead, it’s about how blurring the line between work and home life can affect your team.
According to some surveys, many people who’ve gone remote are working longer hours than they used to, thinking:
- I’m already here, I can look at this even though it’s a weekend…
- An extra 10 minutes of work can’t hurt…
- Maybe I should check my emails while I have a second just in case…
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – the issue arises when you let this get out of control.
Fortunately, as a manager or supervisor, there are many ways you can work against this.
Solution: look out for your team and be flexible
Yep, it really is as simple as that!
If you’re in regular communication with your staff (which you should be), you should also use this as an opportunity to keep tabs on how each of them are doing, and whether or not they’re struggling to keep up.
It’s also important to remember post-pandemic that a lot of people who choose to work from home might be doing it because of other commitments that they need to attend to.
Parents, for example, might work remotely\ so that they can be there for school runs, or attend any emergencies that might pop up.
One of the biggest points of stress for workers is when they feel like their work expectations are so strict that they can’t make room for these other obligations.
As a good remote manager or supervisor, it’s important that you understand that sometimes, life gets in the way while working remotely and that you accommodate for it. Be flexible with deadlines if you need to, and whatever you do, try to be understanding.
Here’s a problem you may not have thought of: are you recruiting staff who have experience working remotely?
As remote work becomes an option at more workplaces (and even the default option at certain organisations), experience with remote work situations is going to become an increasingly important factor when hiring.
And we aren’t just talking about previous experience, either.
If your employment agency in Melbourne isn’t choosing staff who are capable of working independently without direct supervision, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Even if you only intend on offering remote work as an option, the ability to work independently is critical.
Unfortunately, a lot of employment recruitment agencies focus on the hard skills, training and previous experience. Each of these are vital, true – however, they also don’t really tell you how somebody’s going to perform in a remote working situation.
If you ask us, the best employment agencies in Melbourne are the ones that do consider this
Long before the pandemic forced other agencies to look into whether or not applicants have the right temperament and personality traits to work remotely, our recruitment agency was looking at all the hard-to-define personal stuff that separates a good hire from a great one.
Personality, aptitude, initiative… These are just some of the things that our recruitment consultants look at, regardless of whether or not you’ve asked us to find a permanent hire or to fill a temp role.
All of which ensures you get the best fit for the role – our 80% referral rate doesn’t lie!