Managing Remote-Work Employees for the First Time

We’re several weeks into our stay-at-home orders here in the Los Angeles and Orange county regions and many companies are in the thick of managing work-from-home employees. Many of you no doubt have worked the kinks out and things are going smoothly.

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But perhaps not. If you’ve never managed remote-work employees before, or if your employees have never worked from home before, you still may be finding new issues that create stress for all of you.

How well are you managing….yourself?

Probably the first step in managing remote workers is taking a look at how well you’re managing yourself while working at home. After all, you can’t expect your subordinates to do as well as you’re doing…unless you’re doing well yourself.

If you’re not getting work done on time, how could you expect your team members to do the same?

Your first step when it comes to managing remote workers, therefore is….become the remote worker you want your team members to become.

Work hard to remain calm

You may be stressed to the max and your subordinates also may be. In fact, now that more people have been laid off from work, now that more of us are becoming sick, the stress may be even more now for employees, even if they’ve been working at home for a few weeks.

If you’re feeling stressed, it’s OK to feel it, but your job as manager is to serve your team by being calm. The more you can help them get through this from a place of respect and understanding, the better and the more your subordinates themselves will be able to calm themselves and do their work.

Avoid criticism, if possible, and understand that probably no one will be able to work at the capacity they did before life changed completely. Encourage your team members and praise them for small things, things you (may) not have done so before.

Cut everyone – including yourself – a lot of slack

Chances are everyone is getting a bit stir crazy. Maybe a lot stir crazy. This could be especially so if one or more of your team members is finding their family situation becoming more stressed. (After all, living with young children cooped up in a home for days on end can do that to even the most “chill” of individuals.)

For example, if possible, don’t absolutely require that everyone “be at work” right at the usual start time and throughout the day. So long as your team members are getting their work done well and on time, let them know they have the flexibility to do their work when they see fit. (This may not work, of course, if they have customer-centric roles and your clients expect them to be available at certain times.)

Focus on the achievable

Many people in times such as these – constantly stressful and mostly not under our control – can start thinking they can’t do anything that will control or change their situation. (And even highly competent individuals can come to think this way.)

But focusing on achievable projects or tasks helps your subordinates have a sense of control and agency. Accomplishing these types of tasks and projects also helps redirect them from distressing thoughts and even moods.

Guide them in focusing on what they can do instead of what they can’t. For example, many salespeople may be greatly stressed about not being able to make sales calls in person. Let them know they can make them via video. More importantly, help them come up with achievable goals regarding how many video sales calls they may be able to make now. Chances are great that number will be much less than the number of calls they made in person. So instead of focusing on sales calls, help them focus instead on something they can control, such as how many prospects to whom they reach out to each week.

Cut back on priorities if possible

Aim to have a one-on-one (via video, of course) with each of your subordinates to discuss priorities. It’s best if you can reduce that number to just two or three.

Check in with team members regularly

Work with your subordinates to see what this will look like. Perhaps you’ll send an email every day to see how things are going while having an all-team video chat two or three times a week.

Don’t be afraid to send individual emails every now and then to team members that have nothing to do with tasks or projects. Ask them how someone in their family is doing, for example, and if they’ve been able to get out for a walk every day.

On a more work-related message, make sure to ask if there’s anything more you can do as their manager to help them.

Note: don’t be surprised if these daily check ins decline in numbers for each day and even how many you have in a week as your team members get used to their new work situation.

Encourage self-care and even team activities

Let your team members know they really should get outside, if possible, a few times a day. Consider having a weekly video get-together in which everyone can have fun together, perhaps by playing a game (with prizes), “having lunch together” via video, etc.

Keep them in the loop, no matter what

As the Covid-19 crisis continues for the next few weeks, you’re company may need to make major changes. Keep your team members aware on how things are going, especially if some big adjustments are coming.

How can we help you build or manage a remote team?

How Much Social Media Use at Work is Too Much?

You know your employees visit their personal social media channels at work: they use either their company-supplied computer or their own mobile devices.

But from an HR or management standpoint, how much is too much? Should they look at it just on their break time? Only on their own devices?

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Now that it’s 2019 and we’re well into the world of social connectivity and media 24/7, chances are great your company and/or department already has guidelines and policies in place regarding social media usage. But there always are loopholes or guidelines/rules that just aren’t clear.

In general, if employee productivity isn’t being affected, there’s probably no need to curtail social media usage, so long as employees are following your company’s social media policy. (We’re assuming here that you have one.)

We understand that chances are good only one, two or just a few employees appear to be social obsessed, so in those cases it’s best to look at usage individually, again with an eye toward how tweeting, scrolling on Instagram and pinning on Pinterest affects – or doesn’t – each employee’s performance.

  • Generally, if it appears that social use is affecting someone’s work results and productivity, it needs to be addressed,  but not necessarily in “I see you’re on social media a lot and it’s affecting your work,” because chances are another employee is on social media just as much…but is still productive.

If that’s the case, the issue is productivity/quality of work for a particular employee and not his or her social media use, per se. Focus on the issue of productivity and ask the employee what he or she can do to be more productive/focus more.

  • If visitors to your office notice the social use, that’s something that you can – and should – address, because if you know they’ve noticed it, it’s because they mentioned it and if they’ve mentioned it chances are great that they don’t like what they are seeing.
  • Does it appear that the person is on social All. The. Time? And therefore you’re wondering how could he possibly be truly focused on work? Any manager/supervisor would wonder. This would be a time to pay more attention to not only the employee’s productivity but the quality of work he delivers.

If you do find that most of your team members seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on social media, one suggestion is to hold a meeting and mention that while productivity and work product appears to be fine, it also feels as if too many people are on social media too much.

Let your team members know that you are not judging and ask them to estimate how much time they spend on social in a day and add it up. Let’s say the amount is about three hours a day for each person. Subtracting 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon, the lunch period and work “lulls” that happen frequently during the day, ask them if “spending 90 minutes a day on social media when we’re not at lunch or on break is the best use of our time?”

Then, as a team, come up with solutions to lessening the amount of time spent on social media.

And, by the way, even if your team doesn’t feel that 90 minutes on social a day on the clock isn’t too much time, it’s fine – as the boss – to say it is.

When you need talented workers for a day or a year in Los Angeles and Orange counties, contact Helpmates. We can provide terrific folks for temporary, temp-to-hire and direct hire needs you have. Contact the Helpmates branch nearest you for more information.

How Often Do Your Team Members See You? Seriously: How Often?

Everyone it seems – and this really isn’t much of an exaggeration, is it? – is on their phones all. The. Time. Or texting. Or creating/responding to email. And as a result, you may have noticed that we don’t talk to each other much anymore. Face-to-face. Eye-to-eye.

And this is a problem (especially for millennials and members of Generation Z) because a lot is lost when we hide from each other: not only can misunderstandings rise, but a true human connection is lost.

This hiding behind technology can hurt the manager/subordinate relationship, of course, but it’s not just tech that can wreak havoc: too many managers and leaders spend too much time in their offices and behind their desks. Or taking meetings. Or creating reports.

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They are otherwise engaged and AWAY from the very people who need to see them the most: the people who report to them.

Instead, realize that talking to your team members face-to-face, engaging with them every day (even in meetings) is by far the best type of leadership possible.

Here’s why. Take a look below.

  • Being present shows you care.

Have you ever been out with a friend who has his phone out all the time and constantly looks at it. How does that make you feel? Not too important, right? But what if your friend keeps the phone in a pocket? What if he glances at it only if it rings/gets a text and then doesn’t answer the text/phone? Doesn’t that make you feel as if you’re your friend’s main focus? Don’t you then feel seen? Connected – truly connected – with your friend? Don’t you feel that you matter?

The same goes for how often you talk to your subordinates, especially when you do so one-on-one: you’re in effect telling the people you manage that they matter to you.

  • As you talk, listen.

As in really listen. Head out to the floor or cube farm and ask questions about how projects are going, but don’t settle for just “things are fine.” Keep asking. Is the person happy with progress? Is there anything she could use? Does he have any ideas to help the project move more quickly?

Ask about families. Any fun trips planned? How did his daughter’s graduation go? She found work and moved out already? How’s the empty nest going?

One-on-one conversations, whether about work or non-work should be a top priority: these chats can truly help you and your team member feel more connected on a human level.

  • In meetings, make sure everyone can speak.

Many managers don’t lead meetings so much as command them. Instead, genuinely ask for input, especially when asking for solutions to problems. (Announce it a policy that every idea is welcomed and no guffawing or other derisive reaction will be allowed.)

Ask your subordinates for input as a matter of course. After all, they are the ones doing the bulk of the work on whatever projects/programs/goals your department has and they know more than you about how things are progressing.

In addition, don’t be afraid to delegate work. Doing so shows your trust in your team and it also provides individuals the chance to grow and learn.

  • Provide this same consideration to your temporary workforce as you do your regular employees.

Treating your temporary staff as much as possible like your regular staff can go a long way to ensuring they enjoy working with you, work diligently for you and provide all the value they can.

So go ahead: talk to them. Ask them for their insights because being “new blood” may help them to see things in a differently than folks who have worked with you for a while can.

And when you need contractors/temporary workers at your company, work with Helpmates to find them for you. Contact the branch office nearest you to learn more.

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