Having already explored the background to why so many of us are currently working remotely and the potential advantages and disadvantages that this presents for employers and employees in the first of our two-part look at how to manage employees working from home, we will now investigate the key considerations for managing people remotely.
How to manage remotely
While the key objective to getting employees to work from home following the outbreak of Covid 19 was to keep them safe, there are many more considerations you need to think about when it comes to managing remote employees, if you're to keep them happy, engaged and productive.
Communication and feedback: it may seem obvious, but when you're not all in the office under the same roof, it can be a lot more challenging to check how everyone is feeling, and who might need more encouragement or support without verbal and non-verbal cues to help you.
Subsequently, this makes finding other ways of communicating and obtaining feedback even more important when you're trying to connect with remote working staff. The telephone, video conferencing and online collaboration tools, with the latter including a mix of presence, instant messaging, voice and video call features can all help with this. However, they don't really offer the level of structure and detailed analysis that is required to get to the root of how and why an individual might be feeling the way they do.
In contrast, HR surveys, specifically 'work from home' or 'remote working surveys' as they are otherwise known in this context, can provide the structure of questioning, in-depth analysis and reporting needed to provide this insight, enabling you to take any positive actions you need.
Home working and productivity: from household noise and disturbances from neighbours to distractions from other family members or even pets, there is a lot that can potentially hinder your staff when they're trying to work from home. As a manager you need to be able to get to the heart of what might be causing them these challenges and make suggestions or provide extra equipment that could help with this. This could include anything from suggesting an alternative routine that could help them to minimise distractions from family members, to supplying them with noise reduction headphones or suggesting white noise apps that could help them to mask external noise.
Wellbeing when working from home: the circumstances between one employee and another can vary widely. While one may live in a busy household, another may live completely alone, either of which can impact the levels of wellbeing from one individual to the next. Of course, you won't know about any of this unless you're able to find effective ways of investigating wellbeing issues.
Subsequently an employee pulse survey, which as the name suggests is a short survey that aims to get a quick pulse of how things are in your organisation, is an excellent way to regularly check in with and monitor the wellbeing of your employees. From the feedback you can make suggestions or take any necessary actions you need to help improve their levels of overall levels of happiness.
Motivation and morale: just as important as monitoring levels of wellbeing is to check the motivation and morale of your staff, as this can have a bearing on how effective and productive they are in their roles. So, it's good to be able to check their levels of staff satisfaction and engagement with a remote work questionnaire that focuses specifically on these areas.
Security: this is another crucial area, not only for your employees and your wider business, but also in protecting your customers' data.
While security is easier to manage when everyone's together in the office it can be much harder when your staff are working remotely,even if you've deployed technologies to help with this (which can include anything from a VPN or remote desktops, to employing two-factor authentication or a secure online password generator and a storage platform).
You can help employees by having a remote security policy in place, which they can refer to if they need to check anything. However, they still need to be able to fully understand this and be clear about what is expected of them if you're to keep everything as secure as you can.
Subsequently, working from home surveys can provide the perfect opportunity to check employees understanding of any security policies you have put together around remote working, as well as ensuring they have the right equipment to do their jobs.
Will working from home continue?
While for many employers the pandemic meant that they had no choice but to move their staff to a new home working arrangement, it has thrown up some interesting questions about how long working from home might continue, even after the pandemic has finally ended.
While some commentators are already predicting a more permanent cultural shift towards remote working, others are less sure. But what we can be certain about is that the activities of some sectors are better suited to remote work than others, as a large part of their role involves interacting with computers and updating knowledge. This can give us a bit more of a clue about which industries are more likely to continue with remote working after the pandemic has ended.
According to research from McKinsey, the finance and insurance industries have the highest potential for remote working, as three-quarters of their time is spent on activities that can be done remotely from home without a loss of productivity. Similarly, they are closely followed by those working in the management, business services and information technology sectors. In addition, many employers have already supported this transition through more investment in remote work tools, with the technology, financial services and insurance industries leading the way.
With 82% of company leaders already considering allowing employees to continue working remotely, at least some of the time in the post pandemic world, there has never been a better time to get to the pulse of what your staff think about this through a remote work survey. By enabling you to know who's happy with this and who is not, it can also allow you to assess your employees' expectations for it, so it's set up in the best way possible for the benefit of your staff and your business success.
Alternatively, if you and your employees would prefer to return to the office when things get back to some level of normality, surveys can also assist you here too with ensuring this process is safe and as smooth as possible for everyone involved. Obviously, many people may be anxious about this after many months in the safety of their own home, which is where a return to work questionnaire can be really helpful in enabling you to analyse people's feedback about this, address any concerns and make any changes you need to your workplace, before your employees' first day back at the office.
While we still don't know with any absolute certainty how the remote working landscape might look when the pandemic finally ends, with the use of the remote work survey we can at least begin to get more of an idea, as it will allow us to examine who is comfortable to stay working from home and who would prefer to return to the office when things finally return to some level of normality. Take a look at our Coronavirus survey templates now to help get you started with capturing staff feedback.