Company crises, natural disasters and global events like the coronavirus are forcing many companies large and small to change their ways of working in order to survive and thrive. For many employees, this means working flexible hours or working remotely. Due to the nature of technical roles, this can be even more challenging for teams such as Engineering and Manufacturing workers.
Here are 6 tips for managing teams across locations, remits and levels of seniority.
Many technical staff or contractors in senior or specific roles, such as Network Technicians, Design Engineers and Electronics and IT Support Specialists, already operate remotely for some or all of their working hours. This talent pool is a first-hand resource that can provide direct insights into the experience of working remotely for your company, and help management teams predict any challenges or issues that may arise for other home workers.
Ask your current remote workers the following questions:
Even though you can’t see what you employees are doing, you can trust them to get on with the job, especially if they are more senior. Remote workers are up to 30% more productive than office or site-based employees, because they get hours back from their daily commute and experience fewer distractions. During the first two weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, employees in the UK and US were working 11-hour days on average.
Ahead of the remote working time period, outline processes of reporting and communication such as project management tools and online teamwork software. Establish a routine that allows for communication as regularly as is necessary, and leave workers to reach maximum productivity outside established meeting hours.
Most workers do not need direct supervision to remain active and achieve results – the productivity increase among remote workers is equivalent to an extra day per person per week.
However, what works best for one employee may have the opposite effect on another. For example, some workers feel liberated by a lack of social contact with their managers, whilst others need more structure; others want more flexibility to sleep, exercise and work on hobbies in regular breaks throughout the day, whilst others do their best work in an intensely concentrated time period.
To best support your teams, personalise the levels of management support that each staff member receives. Have an open conversation with them about their preferences: ask them about their communication and schedule preferences, which tasks they feel they will need the most and least support with, and any challenges that they anticipate. Review this every month – those not used to working remotely may have inaccurately estimated how the change to their working schedules would affect them, and new or complicated projects may have been added to workloads.
A worker that feels supported, trusted and valued by their manager is far more likely to be happy, productive and loyal to their company.
Business owners and leaders are understandably concerned about security risks posed by staff who are spread across multiple locations and networks. In the period of February and March 2020, cyber threats to businesses increased by 380%. However, with the right policies and procedures, remote working can be just as safe and secure as office working.
Work with your IT support teams to install security software directly onto employee computers, including anti-virus protection, whether over the phone, a secure connection or in person. When setting up new software or communication tools, set strong passwords and discourage individuals from writing these down or emailing them to anyone else.
Create a dedicated home working policy that details potential security risks and how the company will mitigate them, and ensure each employee reads and signs this document; covering these rules in a face-to-face meeting or video conference will be the most effective way of conveying the seriousness of the situation and inviting any questions about the security policy.
Some hackers attempt to take advantage of remote workers by sending emails posing as business leaders or managers and requesting financial or company details. Ensure your staff are able to spot potential hackers: send them email communication assuring that management will never ask for financial details over email, instruct your employees not to open any attachments from suspicious email addresses, and direct staff to report suspicious activity immediately to one specific IT contact who can deal with the issue safely.
Whilst remote workers can easily stay in touch with their colleagues via email and phone, additional free or low-cost software can facilitate group video meetings and conference calls. Instruct team leaders to make an effort to include remote workers as much as office or site-based colleagues, by agreeing regular team meeting times and communications platforms, and using phone call or video platforms for weekly 1-2-1 meetings between managers and their direct reports.
Regular company-wide updates are invaluable for any and all employees across offices and work stations. Monthly newsletters can share financial updates, company progress news and recognition of high performance, and celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and individual successes. Intranet systems can provide a dedicated area for colleagues to communicate and quickly access and share vital information.
Share regular tips with your workers on how to establish and maintain good mental health, including: