1. Communicate openly and often
The first imperative in any crisis is to keep employees informed, but how and what you communicate are critically important. This is especially the case when employees are working remotely and may otherwise receive less information from organisational channels than if they were in an office with their manager and peers. Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them. Share openly and often what the real impact of the crisis is on your business, and normalise what to expect. If you don’t, employees will simply turn to the distributed network of information — websites, social media, etc. — to fill the void. Make sure managers are informed so they can cascade information as needed. Candor and two-way communication help to establish the trust you need to make your remote-work policies a success.
2. Trust in employees to be productive
Whether your remote-work initiatives are routine or urgent, trust is the foundation of their success. “Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them,” says Aaron McEwan, Vice President, Gartner. Managers often worry about the lack of visibility into the workflows and routines of their direct reports when they work remotely. In our snap poll, 76% of HR leaders reported the top employee complaint during the coronavirus outbreak as “concerns from managers about the productivity or engagement of their teams when remote. “But worries about employee productivity are often overblown,” says McEwan.
Employees who work from home often manage their time so as to leverage the time of day when they feel most productive, and they don’t suffer unnecessary interruptions to the degree they do in the office.
54% of HR leaders in our snap poll indicated that poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effective remote working. Still, it’s pivotal to guide managers to focus on outcomes in performance and productivity reviews. Set accurate expectations with employees and enable supportive interactions among employees. “When the dust settles, we’ll likely see that our remotely working employees were just as productive during this crisis — if not more so,” says McEwan.