How to Manage Remote Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Embracing new trends and evolving with the times is a feature of progressive societies, and adapting holds the key to surviving periods of drastic change. This applies to business and the workplace, too. Leaders often play a key role in implementing innovative ideas that reinforce organizational values and ensure business continuity.

Accredited degree programs, like Eastern Washington University’s online MBA with a General Business Concentration, prepare students with tools relevant to the ever-changing marketplace. EWU’s program builds leadership acumen and develops a comprehensive understanding of concepts like applying data and ethics in business decisions, facilitating positive business relationships and resolving issues facing business leaders today. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for leaders to master these concepts.

Take the remote work model, for example. Many businesses and companies have asked their employees to work from home, pushing leaders and managers to show they can support both their businesses and their staff while resolving the issues that arise with this new way of operating. Some challenges with a widespread remote workforce include:

  • Keeping employees motivated. There may be a decline in job performance and engagement from even the highest-performing employees due to the lack of face-to-face supervision and support from their managers.
  • Distractions at home. Some employees don’t have the luxury of, or expertise in, separating their “work” space from their “home” space. There is a chance that workers could be juggling job duties, family and other responsibilities and feel overwhelmed.
  • Social isolation. The interactions and relationships created in the office setting often lay the foundation for company culture and morale. Unless well-managed, the remote-work environment has the potential to strip those bonds and erode staff morale.

Here are seven strategies that can help leaders tackle these issues and better manage remote employees:

  1. Leave Your Virtual Door Open

Employees no longer have the luxury of popping into offices for a chat, but they need to feel like they can. Consider establishing structured check-ins via phone call or videoconferencing. These calls should be regular and predictable to offer some semblance of structure. Also, be sure to encourage an open forum that allows employees to feel seen and heard.

  1. Take Some of the Burden Off Email

Email communication alone won’t cut it in the remote work model. Videoconferencing, for example, not only eases the transfer of communication, but it also reduces isolation because of the presence of visual cues. It adds the sense of connection that’s missing in working from home. There are other collaboration tools and software that can help teams connect. Remember: The number of communication platforms does not equate to success, but a system that produces quality work does.

  1. Establish Rules of Engagement

Eliminate clutter and confusion by setting clear expectations of the means, frequency and timing of communication for all employees. Let them know which situations call for videoconferencing or instant messaging and offer guidance on the best times to connect during a typical workday.

  1. Focus on the What, Not the How

Focus on what employees need to accomplish and set clear objectives. When you place more emphasis on objectives and less on the process, engagement increases and micromanagement decreases. It is important to remember that some employees juggle several roles in the remote work model. Embracing flexibility empowers them to complete tasks in a way that works for their circumstances.

  1. Foster Innovation

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Encourage the spirit of innovation within your team and make an effort to cultivate imagination within employees. Uncertain times often provide the best conditions for innovation to bloom.

  1. Keep It Social

Find ways to boost morale by creating opportunities for remote social engagement. It can be as simple as incorporating informal, non-work conversations into team calls or as carefully planned as virtual office parties. This does not have to be cheesy or forced. Great leaders note cues and comments from their employees to create an experience that aligns with both their needs and the company’s culture.

  1. Offer Emotional Support

Look for signs of distress. Take the opportunity to ask employees how they are doing. Listen to their anxieties and concerns. Encourage them, then ensure that other managers are doing the same diligence when handling sensitive subjects.

Today’s work climate calls for a high degree of emotional intelligence. If a leader seems helpless, then employees are likely to follow suit. If the leader shows empathy and understanding of the circumstances while providing affirmation and encouragement to the team, then that confidence will trickle down.

It all comes back to agility as a leader, which means taking every opportunity to learn, adapt to uncertain environments and allow those lessons to evolve into innovative solutions. These strategies can help build an efficient remote work model that streamlines how businesses operate, embraces flexibility and supports employees during these unprecedented times. After all, staff success underlies the overall success of a business.

Learn more about EWU’s online MBA program with a General Business Concentration.


Harvard Business Review: A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers

Gartner: 9 Tips for Managing Remote Employees

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