As COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to spread across the globe, more and more companies are turning to remote work options to prevent the spread of the virus while also meeting business demands. Since this is the first foray into remote work for many companies, managers and supervisors may not be equipped to deal with the unique demands of managing a remote workforce. Here are 5 tips to help your managers and employees stay productive, engaged, and healthy while working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

1. Provide tools and support

With a record number of employees moving to remote work for the first time, managers must be vigilant to ensure that workers have the tools and technical support they need to ensure success. For many, encountering a technical issue at home or realizing they don’t have the equipment or access they need can be demoralizing and send your well-laid plans for continued production down the drain.

If employees regularly work from laptops in the workplace, be sure that all devices are checked out by your IT professionals before being sent home. Any updates or upgrades should be made before the equipment leaves the building. If there are needed updates during the period that employees will be working remotely, be sure that IT is prepared to walk employees through the process by phone or teleconference.

Additionally, employees may have questions about the regular day-to-day work they’re doing. Managers should be available by phone or email to provide feedback or direction when necessary. To facilitate this process, consider using a chat tool like Google Hangouts, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. These apps allow you and your employees to communicate informally, similar to a quick hallway conversation in the workplace. To learn more about the hardships your workers might be facing, check out 5 Unexpected Challenges of Working from Home.

2. Set clear expectations

When you aren’t interacting face-to-face with your team on a daily basis, it can be easy for expectations to get muddled or goals to become unclear. To combat this tendency, managers must be explicit about their expectations for remote workers.

Set clearly defined parameters, deadlines, and metrics for measuring the productivity. Be specific about how often you expect employees to report in, the hours you expect employees to work, and whether you’ll follow a traditional set schedule or allow employees to work odd hours.

Weekly progress reports can be a good tool for evaluating whether employees are making adequate strides toward meeting expected goals and producing the outcomes desired by managers. If employees are missing the mark, managers should look first at their own instructions to make sure that they were clear and easy for employees to follow and adjust as needed.

3. Communicate often

Communication is critical to ensuring the success of remote workers. For employees accustomed to daily face-to-face communication, staying in touch can be all the difference.

Managers should provide multiple channels of communication. Emails, daily check-in calls, and team conference calls can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands what the goals and expectations are for each day. Additionally, weekly video conference calls can be a great way to provide training or coaching, as well as allowing for more in-depth feedback on tasks and projects. Constant communication and engagement are essential to helping employees stay on target during remote work periods. Our article Qualities to Look for in Your Next HR Leader offers even more tips on being a great leader in the workplace.

4. Stay engaged

When employees work remotely, it can be easy to feel disconnected or less engaged. Don’t let the hard work you and your employees have spent building a team fall apart during this trying period.

Scheduling time for employees to talk to each other, not just their managers, can help them remember what they love about their workplace. In addition to regular teleconference and video conference calls with management, consider holding an employee “happy hour” sans management for employees to talk about their work from home experiences and catch up with one another. For many remote workers, the feeling of being disconnected can lead to decreased productivity and loss of morale. Keeping your employees engaged with one another should be a key focus for your management team.

5. Focus on outcomes, not hours

For many remote employees, being at home may mean working with children or other family members in the home at the same time. Managers should take these factors into consideration when evaluating how workers are performing, when they’re able to work, and how well they’re working.

Some employees may be able to accomplish the same amount in 6 hours working from home as they did working 8 hours in the office. For many, the lack of distractions from coworkers, ringing phones, or other factors can allow them to be more productive than usual. Don’t punish employees for completing their tasks more quickly than usual. Pay and evaluations should focus on the outcomes, not necessarily the number of hours logged.

Additionally, some employees may find it easier to be productive and focused during late hours or non-traditional work times, especially if their children are also out of school due to coronavirus concerns. Some workers may find it easier to get work done late at night or overnight when their kids are sleeping. Where possible, focus on the outcomes and output, rather than on the time and number of hours worked.

Looking for more HR tips

Want to stay up-to-date on all the hottest HR trends? Sheakley is your premier source for the latest HR news and information. Subscribe to our blog to continue to learn about what’s new in the world of HR.