The events of the past year have triggered a cultural shift in how businesses run. It’s expected that some companies will never return to a traditional office set-up, opting to reap the numerous benefits of working remotely instead. However, that leaves the challenge of having little facetime with employees during difficult times.

Team leaders and managers have a duty to support their remote employees to bridge the gap of the online environment. Here are some effective ways to support remote employees now, and in the future.

Install the Right Tools

One of the most important aspects of supporting employees during this time is to ensure the right tools are in place. Ideally, the business will invest in cloud-based tools and systems to allow access and communication from anywhere. These tools can include everything from online faxing to project management software, depending on the business needs. 

It’s also essential for employers to give special consideration to employees who may lack sufficient internet access. If your business has moved from a traditional office setting to a work-from-home environment, consider giving an employee credit for their internet usage. No employee should be penalized for lacking the resources to access the internet.

Offer Ample Training Opportunities

When your business introduces new tools, it’s essential to ensure everyone is knowledgeable and comfortable using them. The lack of in-person learning opportunities can add complexity to the learning curve when utilizing new tools. When faced with a question, it’s no longer possible to help an employee with a quick demonstration on their computer while they watch. 

Consider choosing tools that have training resources available. It can also be helpful to record videos of various processes so that employees can follow them at their own pace. Rather than asking employees if they’re comfortable with a new tool or system, ask them their comfort level on a scale of one to 10. This approach will give you more authentic, truthful answers.

Redefine Goals

The shift away from the traditional office setting also has many businesses moving away from the traditional nine-to-five workday. Rather than focusing on specific hours of work, consider moving to a focus on daily or weekly tasks and goals. This approach will help remote employees improve their communication, time-management, and productivity.

This consideration is especially important during the pandemic, as many employees are sharing their workspace with spouses, children, or roommates. Be empathetic and flexible with scheduling to account for the unexpected changes and challenges your team members may be facing.  

Schedule Frequent Check-Ins

The importance of one-on-one check-ins cannot be understated when working with remote employees. Schedule one-on-one updates in a private environment to ask about your employee’s health and well-being, as remote work can be isolating. It also presents a platform for introverted employees to share their perspectives and ideas without the cacophony of team meetings.

Scheduling one-on-one check-ins also provides an opportunity to drill down into personal challenges regarding project tasks, so that they don’t overtake larger meetings – which leads into the importance of making meetings count.

Make Meetings Count

Every meeting should have a purpose, especially when scheduled remotely with various team members. Set an agenda, stick to the time constraints, and end each meeting with clear objectives. Reviewing action items and assigning names and deadlines will help everyone stay on track while working from home.

Set Clear Expectations and Guidelines

The policies and procedures that worked in a traditional office setting are unlikely to work in a remote team. Many employees struggle to maintain boundaries when working from home. Ensuring that clear expectations and communication guidelines are put in place is crucial for successfully managing a remote team.

Create an employee handbook that outlines reasonable response times, communication best practices, and regulations around flexible scheduling.

These effective strategies will help team leaders manage and support a remote team, creating a culture of empathy and success.