The global remote work quick-change: Managing remote and blended teams

July 14th, 2020 Posted by Bronwen Bartlett Design Thinking, The future, Employee Experience, coronavirus, family

2020 certainly has proven to the world that change can happen in an instant. While remote work advocates have been encouraging companies to go remote or blended for several years, the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lock downs forced the issue. This left many companies – and their employees – unprepared for a mass migration to remote work. 

Several massive multinational companies like Facebook, Google and Slack announced that they will be permanently shifting much of their workforce to remote work following the pandemic. Many other companies are considering taking this opportunity to do likewise. However, most are still not quite prepared for what this will mean, or how best to manage their teams, both fully remote and blended. Here are our top three tips for a positive remote-working employee experience.

1 – The communication balancing act

Companies have tried various means of keeping in touch with employees during this time. This includes everything from carefully scheduled video meetings, to camera  monitoring to ensure people are “at their desks”. However, it is best, when working with remote employees, to try to avoid extremes. You need to trust that your remote workers are still capable of doing their work, and ensure they have the time and space to do it in. 

Don’t overwhelm employees with unnecessary meetings. Rather use less invasive and time-consuming methods to keep communication lines open, and only schedule the most essential meetings. If you have a blended team, make sure that office-bound staff and remote staff receive the same information at all times. Also make sure that you are equally available to both groups.

2 – Rethink remote work productivity 

In the previous point, we mentioned companies that implemented continuous monitoring as a way to keep employees productive. However, this is rarely effective, as pretty much nobody likes being watched all the time. It also has no positive effect on productivity. On average, office-bound employees are fully productive for around four hours a day. The rest of their time is taken up by discussions, meetings, briefings, and even breaks and personal conversations. Remote workers, on the other hand, may experience other types of distractions – including those incessant video calls – that you have no control over. These must be taken into consideration when trying to manage productivity.

Rather than forcing remote employees to be present at a desk for eight or nine hours a day, focus on tasks and deadlines. If you are working with a blended team, make sure that in-office and remote employees receive a fair balance of tasks assigned to them, and that one group isn’t taking on more responsibility. Be flexible with your in-office staff as well, if it is at all viable, by offering flexi-time or productivity incentives, like being able to leave early.

3 – Understand your team

It’s worth remembering that not everyone works the same way, and that people have natural rhythms that work to their advantage. For example, you may have one employee who can produce massive volumes of work, but only if they work at night. Another employee might be chronically late for work, but get all their work done before mid-day. Either of these employees might be ideal for remote work and, given the right support, may thrive.

Then again, you may have an employee who requires the structure of an office, and a manager who is present, to work at their utmost efficiency. If you are going for a blended team, this would be the person to keep in-office. Understanding each individual employee’s needs and capabilities will, in both the short term and the long run, help you ensure your employees are well managed, productive and happy.

Final tips: The most important thing about managing employees, whether they are remote or in-office, is to listen to and understand them. Learn Who they are, how they work best, and what they need to be at their most efficient and productive. As we see more and more companies embrace the remote work culture, this will increasingly become the most valued management trait, and the one that will keep your teams happy and working well.

At Tenaka, we make lives better, bringing about positive change to customer and employee experience through human-centred design. Let us help you make the lives of your employees better, whether they are a remote working team, an in office team or a blended team. Get in touch today to find out how.

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