The four pillars for managing a remote and fragmented workforce

In many ways, the COVID-19 lockdown has expedited trends that were already happening within many sectors, as businesses have moved at pace towards remote working, flexible work patterns and fragmented workforces.

Now more than ever, managers are needing guidance and leadership on how to help their fragmented or remote teams thrive, beyond the rudiments of Zoom meetings and cloud storage. Here are our four pillars for managing a remote or disparate workforce.

Flexibility is a two-way street

Once you have set a ‘big picture’ vision for a project or piece of work, be prepared to be flexible with employees who may be adapting to new working hours and styles. Assess those who will benefit from a more hands-on approach and set smaller goals along the way.

Remember that flexibility is a two-way street. You cannot expect staff to universally adapt to your preferred hours or ways of working if you are not willing to be flexible yourself. This could look like being open to conversation on deadlines, flexible working requests or calls for additional support.

Clear communication and accountability are key

“But how do you know they’ll do any work?” is a question often levelled at employers with remote teams. Hopefully lockdown has proven that provided that employees feel envisioned and motivated, most will work just as diligently in the office as they can remotely.

Promoting accountability is a way of cementing trust between manager and team members. Set out clear expectations, and create regular check-ins to ensure staff are on track. Knowing your team well provides you with the ability to know whether you feel staff are delivering their best work.

Focus on outputs not inputs

One of the benefits of remote working is the potential for less ‘lost time’ throughout the working day. Capitalise on this by focusing on outputs rather than inputs as a marker of success. 

‘Have X up and running by Friday’ is far more motivating than ‘spend 10 hours working on X’. While none of us would intentionally opt for the latter, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the inputs (time, effort, contact or specific actions) rather than broader outputs (sales, project completions, and so on).

Don’t let company culture suffer

While we all risk only heeding the ‘call of the urgent’ during this time, it’s important to take a step back and remember company culture. The overall culture, vision and mission of your organisation is the thing which will motivate your team and inspire their best work.

Think of ways to remind your team of the ‘why’ behind their work at all touchpoints: during team communications, in project plans and in social conversations. 

At 1850 we specialise in helping organisations thrive in the modern workplace. If you want to make sure your business is set up for success with remote or fragmented teams, get in touch for a free 30 minute consultation with our HR expert. 

Returning to work: Essential HR considerations in a post-pandemic workplace

As businesses around the UK prepare to open their doors and move into a new phase of working practices, we’ve drawn together some essential HR issues to consider as you lead your teams into a post-pandemic workplace.

Crisis response

Few businesses will have had a contingency plan in place for the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown. Now is the time to respond to crises which have emerged within your business, whether they’re on your budget sheet or in your staffroom.

One key element of re-introducing staff to the workplace will be through risk assessments, and ensuring compliance with all the latest health and safety instructions.

Make sure you also have the proper processes in place to handle any queries or disputes which could arise from re-boarding staff.

Reinforce your commitment to wellbeing

Now more than ever, workplaces have a part to play in addressing the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees. Consider what tweaks could be made now to ensure that your HR policies are supporting positive wellbeing among your teams.

This may have particular relevance for your flexible working, office hours or working-from-home policies.

Virtualise customer and client services

As part of your risk-reduction strategies, consider which customer and client services can be ‘virtualised’ or undertaken off-site. 

Zoom and virtual meetings are now the bread and butter of many teams, but consider where else you can add value to customers without the need for physical interaction.

Foster trust within teams

Workplaces and teams have been forced to adapt to new ways of working in lockdown, and many businesses will be dealing with the ongoing effect of having ‘hybrid’ teams — some working remotely and some on-site. 

Make sure you implement the necessary procedures to build trust among team members, and to ensure your internal communications are designed to do the same.

Consider policies for vulnerable workers

In the ‘new normal’ of the post-pandemic workplace, companies will have to consider how its working patterns and policies are affecting individual team members. Specific HR and safety policies may need to be put in place to safeguard the health of vulnerable staff, for example.

Now is the time to go over your existing HR policies to see whether they’ve taken into account workers with underlying health conditions, or those who are shielding family members.

Download our free Return to work guide for more practical tips on easing your staff back into the workplace post pandemic. 

Supporting your workforce as we adapt to a ‘new normal’

Businesses in the UK and across the world have been forced to adapt to a ‘new normal’. Some have gone completely remote, others have been required to establish social distancing measures within a physical workplace, and many a combination of the two.

The resulting changes can be disorienting for your workforce. There are certain measures you will need to take as employers to support your workforce as they adjust to new ways of working; both physically and emotionally.  Here is a helpful guide to support your people as they adapt to your ‘new normal’.

Be prepared

In a world where official advice is constantly changing, ‘being prepared’ for every possibility may seem impossible. But there are many things within your control.

If staff are shifting to remote working, make sure you have prepared the appropriate software suites, hardware and equipment for your team. It pays to be detailed here, even down to phones and computer chairs. This not only equips your team to get the job done, but also communicates a level of support and care, which will serve to boost team spirit and morale.

If teams are moving back into a physical workplace, it’s vital that you prepare adequate social distancing and safety measures ahead of their return. Ensure that all your teams are fully briefed and informed on all the measures that will affect them.

Be clear

Now more than ever, your staff are craving clear communication. Be as transparent as possible in discussions around changes to working patterns, returning to work and other important issues.

Remember that anxiety levels are higher than usual and your communications have the power to inspire and motivate. Honesty communicates value and trust to your team.

Be flexible

Work is not the only area affected by our ‘new normal’. Family life, education commitments and medical issues can all have an effect on staff availability and working patterns. Be as flexible as you’re able when working through these with your staff.

Consider individual cases, and remember than open and frank discussions early on will save misunderstanding and frustration later.

Be open 

Where people have had many changes thrust upon them, it’s important that leaders give their employees and teams the chance to express their thoughts, ideas and frustrations. Be open to listening to suggestions from your staff. In doing so you’ll help them feel more engaged and motivated to do their best work. 

Be positive

Your staff will be looking to you for a lead on how to respond and behave during this time. Choose positive modes of communication and don’t forget to celebrate victories and good news stories in your business.

This could be the time to make special efforts to recognise and reward staff for exemplary work or great results, all of which will serve to motivate your team.

We make PEOPLE your priority in your business. For help adapting your workforce to your ‘new normal’, download our FREE Return to Work guide for more invaluable practical tips.

7 ways to engage a remote workforce

Helping a workforce to feel cohesive and united under a single goal is one of the great challenges of leadership. This can be especially true when managing a remote workforce. 

As many of the UK’s workforce are still working from home, we recognise the importance of having the skills to engage a remote workforce and keep them motivated and productive. Here are 7 ways you can achieve just that. 

Promote a positive work-life balance

With staff working from home it’s easier than ever for the boundaries between work and non-work time to become blurred. Encourage your team to find a positive balance.

If it’s possible in your work context, consider ways to support your team’s physical and mental health, whether through a fitness-based group, a team challenge, or offering access to remote yoga or fitness app. All these initiatives will help your team find a balance between the daily grind and relaxation. 

Maintain daily check-ins

Without the social cues and daily mini-interactions of a shared workplace, it’s much easier for staff to feel detached. Daily check-ins needn’t be arduous or time consuming. A two minute phone call in the morning, or a quick message asking ‘how are you?’ or ‘what are your goals today?’ can go a long way. 

Consider a weekly social hour

Maintaining a strong social bond between your staff is vital in helping them unite around your common goals. A simple weekly social hour, like Friday drinks, a quiz, or just an unstructured catch-up will help to foster a sense of community.

Help set clear boundaries

Workers feel motivated and engaged when they sense their managers care about them. Failing to set clear boundaries with staff can erode that sense of care and value. Make sure you have agreement across your remote workforce about when and how it’s appropriate to communicate and when is off limits.

Ensure that your team members feel like they have your backing to ‘check off’ outside of their working hours, and that there’s no expectation for them to be ‘always on’.

Share information and work easily

Without a shared office space, the risk of working in detached silos is far greater. Without a clear view on the work others are doing, and information that’s relevant to their own role, your team members could lose motivation and a sense of your high level objectives.

Use team management or task management software to make sure that your remote workers can easily find out all they need. And be sure to reiterate vital information during meetings too.

Offer emotional support

Our current work landscape can be disorienting, and a lonely place for many. Take some time to consider the emotional toll on your team.

Most of us aren’t trained counsellors, so only give emotional support that’s appropriate. Often a listening ear is enough. Be ready to signpost your team in the direction of information and resources on emotional health.

Provide opportunities to upskill

Providing professional development opportunities is a key contributor to employee satisfaction and motivation. You may need to upskill staff in particular areas to face your current work situation, or to position your business for future success.

Discuss potential development opportunities with your staff, and see where they tie into your vision and objectives.

Book a FREE 30 minute consultation with us to find out more ways you can engage your workforce post-pandemic.