Remote work is now a reality, and small businesses have to adjust. On the surface, this seems like a tough task. Small businesses are typically strapped for resources, and remote work seemingly introduces more issues. Managing this change requires owners to step outside their comfort zones and implement new processes.
Employees are a firm’s greatest resource, and small business owners must rethink their workplace interactions. Remote work brings unique challenges to employees as well. Empathising with the new state of things will help owners minimise any friction associated with the switch to remote work.
Here are 5 ways to successfully manage remote employees in a small business.
1. Schedule Downtime
Remote work can become stressful due to the lack of separation between work and home environments. Employees might feel they’re always on the clock, thanks to easy access to work resources online. For instance, employees in the financial sector felt this way during the initial onset of the COVID pandemic and were seemingly on the clock 24/7.
Actively scheduling downtime and reminding employees to prioritise it is critical. Whether it’s the business’ health or employees’ mental health, downtime helps everyone unplug from work-related stress. Even if it’s something as simple as engaging in a short, YouTube yoga session or playing online card games like Solitaire Bliss during downtimes, small business owners must help their employees figure out which relaxation method works best for them.
2. Set expectations
Remote work can challenge communication patterns since people are not talking face-to-face anymore. Asynchronous communication between employees in different time zones further challenges businesses. In such an environment, it’s best to document employee expectations and define performance standards.
For instance, before onboarding a new employee make sure to communicate business expectations deliverables for the first week, month, and quarter. Set expectations for the first six months, since this gives the prospective employee an idea of the pace at which they’ll have to work.
Setting expectations like this prevents future employee burnout and minimises the chances of hiring a person who is a poor fit for the job’s demands.
3. Use tech for quick onboarding
Technology has improved to the point where we live the majority of our lives online. Work environments have however stubbornly clung to outdated processes, with some companies still requiring employees to physically sign documents in person.
Remote work requires businesses to adopt new technological solutions. Use platforms that allow you to electronically sign and disseminate contracts, schedule meetings, and store information. When onboarding a new employee, make sure to prioritise getting them online access as quickly as possible. Without access to relevant information, a new employee can feel left out in the cold.
Store important documentation online and check in with employees to make sure everything is clear. Often, what seems obvious to one person might read like Greek to another. Automating onboarding simplifies the path a new employee has to take. In turn, quick onboarding ensures you’ll retain their services for longer.
4. Standardise communication
Every company these days is a global firm, no matter its size. Thanks to customers being present in every corner of the globe, firms are increasingly feeling the need to hire talent worldwide. These hiring practices give rise to challenges in communication.
Thanks to dispersed time zones, holding meetings or chatting in real-time might not always be a viable option. Asynchronous communication is quickly becoming the norm. Standardising communication is the best way of dealing with this challenge. For instance, set email communication standards and help your employees understand best practices.
Setting response time expectations is also a good idea, since most employees have become used to having their questions answered immediately. Standardising communication is akin to creating a new culture in your company, and it isn’t an easy task.
However, normalising asynchronous communication will help you access a diverse set of talent worldwide, helping you connect with your customers better.
Remote work brings business owners challenges, but you must remember that employees face change as well. Many employees have become conditioned to interact with their co-workers face-to-face. Remote work doesn’t give them these opportunities, and they might view this as a negative.
Help your employees adjust to the new environment by creating virtual communication channels. Actively encourage “water cooler talk” by creating separate chat channels. Encourage your employees to prioritise their mental health, since remote work can increase stress if managed improperly.
Taking such action will not only help your employees perform at their best, but they will also help you retain and attract top talent. Great workers seek great employers. By empathising with the challenges your employees face thanks to remote work, you can position yourself ahead of your competition.
Unique challenges require unique solutions
Three years ago, no one envisioned a future where remote work would be feasible. However, it is fast becoming the norm, and small business owners must adapt quickly. From technology to new business processes, many solutions exist to help owners cope with the new environment. Embracing change is the key to moving forward with minimal disruption.