The coronavirus (COVID-19) is prompting a wide range of employers to request employees to work from home, but many workers are simply not experienced in working virtually. In fact, as of 2018, only 24% of U.S. employees did some or all of their work at home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers spend more time in the workplace – 7.9 hours – than they did working at home – 2.9 hours.
A COVID-19 remote-work preparedness survey also found remote work is far from commonplace for many workers and their managers. Nearly half (49%) of workers surveyed said they never work from home. Transitioning work teams to remote work will present some challenges to managers and business leaders. To ensure a smooth and effective transition to virtual work and teams, here are 3 common mistakes that managers should avoid.
Common Mistakes Managers Make with Virtual Teams.
Employees aren’t the only ones who need to manage the transition to remote work. Arguably, how managers approach the process is even more critical to success. In our last blog, we discussed the importance of communication when managing virtual teams. While communication is a common thread among potential pitfalls, there are specific mistakes that managers should keep an eye on.
- Not establishing clear goals and expectations. Particularly critical for newly formed remote work arrangements, setting clear goals and expectations from the start is key. In fact, according to Upwork, the majority of hiring managers say they don’t have the necessary procedures in place for remote employees. Be sure to outline expectations for remote workers, share them with everyone on the virtual team and update them regularly.
For example, decide when the team or workers will need to be online – during specific business hours or on their own schedule. Establish which tools the team will use to communicate and collaborate. Outline how workers and the team will track progress on projects and measure the results.
- Less focus on maintaining engagement and motivation. It may appear difficult to maintain the same level of engagement and motivation in a remote landscape, however there are ways to maintain your company culture virtually. For example, be sure to celebrate wins, big and small, with all virtual team members. Replace high fives or celebratory dinners with posting something in your chat app, sending a thoughtful email or host a celebration via video conferencing.
Remember also that remote workers are people too. With the absence of water cooler talks or shared lunches, they still want to feel heard and motivated. Consider having one on ones more frequently or for longer blocks of time for newly remote workers. Use the time to check in on their adjustment to working virtually and continue to build rapport and engagement.
- Using an old-school communication approach. Feeling disconnected, both from coworkers and the company as a whole, is one of the biggest challenges for remote workers. That’s why it is so important for managers to create opportunities for the team and individuals to connect and communicate regularly. While email and phone calls are fine, consider other ways to communicate that allow for immediacy and facetime in order to truly connect.
Try using instant messaging services like Slack for immediate and ongoing communication throughout the day. Or, other platforms that facilitate project management and collaboration among virtual teams. Finally, when possible, choose video calls over phone calls as your team’s main form of communication. This face-to-face interaction will help build relationships while also preventing miscommunications that occur often via email.
Better Practices Will Lead to Better Results.
Unfortunately, the world we are working in today is characterized by remote work and social distancing. Not being in the office requires different habits and approaches to meeting business goals and performance. While there may be challenges along the way, it’s vital to put best practices and processes in place from the start. With the right planning and preparation, teams can transition to virtual work successfully.