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Top Tips for Managing Remote Workers during COVID-19

If you own a business, you have an incredible number of decisions to make, especially now. You need to take immediate measures to ensure your organization’s long-term viability, first and foremost. If you work in a nonessential industry, you also need to transition and manage a remote team as your employees work from home.

Transitioning to telecommuting always entails stress due to the technology involved. However, you should take extra measures to reassure your staff. After all, they must contend with the uncertainty of their roles, too.

Additionally, they may need to mind children at home, or they could battle significant loneliness if they are isolated. Here are four tips for making the switch as smooth as possible for the entire team:

Maintain Open Communication when Managing Remote Workers

Right now, your employees might be panicking. They may think, “Sure, my job is here today, but will it be here tomorrow? How can I support my family if I end up unemployed?”

This fear is valid. Almost 50% of companies are considering layoffs, and many more have instituted hiring freezes. 

Immediately send out communication indicating the state of the company. Remain optimistic and convey reassurances, but keep it honest.

If you are worried you might need to implement a round of layoffs, show your staff the same consideration you would want to receive if a team member decided to leave. Give them adequate notice that they may face furloughs so they can evaluate their options for survival. 

Furthermore, you need to advise all team members of the proper channels to use when they have questions — because they will. How do they reach out to their manager? Do they prefer a cellphone, Zoom or email communication?

Consider using tools such as Mango or Slack to encourage employees to stay in contact with their colleagues, too. This virtual presence can prevent loneliness since the water cooler is no longer. 

Managing Remote Workers: Promote Productivity 

You also want to keep your staff productive. And, while you do, remember the adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar. Some companies scrambled to implement employee monitoring software during the transition. Unfortunately, some increased their workers’ stress by sending intimidating communications regarding counting keystrokes per minute, etc. 

Remember, everyone is panicked right now, so rely on common sense more than computer metrics when evaluating employee performance. Some parents might be sheltered-in-place with five or six children, and distractions abound. They can no longer rely on school or daycare. 

Others may contract the virus but not know it. They may hesitate to see a doctor out of fear of catching the disease if they don’t have it.

They might not want to spend the money to go if they lack health insurance coverage. Feeling lousy is a killer to productivity, so exercise sensitivity. If you can afford it, give your staff additional PTO to use until the pandemic passes. 

Instead of harsh measures, create training materials on suggested best productivity practices for employees to follow. Keep it real when managing remote workers.

And understand the pressures they may face. Help them balance parenting and work duties by allowing for flextime whenever possible. 

Reduce Cybersecurity Threats

You need to protect your company’s proprietary data more than ever. Unfortunately, several scams have arisen in the pandemic’s wake.

You need to make sure all staff members have appropriate anti-virus and anti-malware software installed and up-to-date. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect trade secrets from hackers when you start to manage a remote team. 

The best security devices won’t work if you don’t train staff on how to use them. One of your first objectives, once you establish the necessary infrastructure and software, is to implement a security training program. Make this a part of their daily duties. 

Encourage the Use of Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Finally, your employees have as much fear as you, if not more. Their anxiety about an uncertain future can lead to harmful behaviors that damage their health and productivity. For example, alcohol sales have soared by 243% since the pandemic began. Binge drinking can lead to multiple adverse health outcomes, including liver and heart disease. 

Suggest that your staff participate in the following healthy activities: 

  • Exercise: Perhaps your onsite gym closed, but you could provide your staff with a free membership to an online streaming service they can use to keep fit and relieve stress.
  • Eat healthfully: Hey, it’s okay — even recommended — to add more personal touches to your daily interactions during these times. Spice up official communications with the occasional fun and healthy recipe that staff can prep with their families. 
  • Take care of their mental health: With unprecedented anxiety levels, not everyone can keep up healthy coping mechanisms alone. If your organization can’t afford health coverage, could you pay the monthly fee for a mental health app to help those staff members struggling with addiction or other mental health diagnoses without support? 

Managing Remote Workers is a Process

Right now, you have a ton of stress, including transitioning your employees to working from home. Cover your bases and treat your staff gently as you manage a remote team during this difficult time. By implementing the tips described above , your organization can emerge in the post COVID-19 time as more cohesive and viable than ever.

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