Back view of Asian business woman talking to her colleagues about plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using computer for a online meeting in video call. Group of people smart working from home.Back view of Asian business woman talking to her colleagues about plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using computer for a online meeting in video call. Group of people smart working from home.
(PHOTO: Getty Creative)

SINGAPORE — Working from home is turning out to be the new norm with many countries on lockdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although many companies have dabbled with the remote workforce model in the last decade, the vast majority of them returned to the traditional in-office work model. 

For a lot of businesses, the switch to remote work is a matter of business continuity, as COVID-19 will remain a risk factor until a vaccine can be found.

Managing remote teams blindly is as tricky as conducting an orchestra without seeing or hearing the musician, according to Alex Konanykhin, chief executive of TransparentBusiness, a workforce-management software company. Managers must have visibility into the remote work process in order to coordinate work of home workers efficiently, he said.

The short-term pain of a transition to remote work is likely to result in a long-term gain of productivity and scalability, Konanykhin said. 

“Relying solely on phone calls or written reports results in an avalanche of communications, without giving managers a clear picture of where things stand. Blind management is so last century,” Konanykhin said.

The key to achieving optimum results in a remote workforce model is communication, Moe Vela, chief transparency officer at TransparentBusiness, said. Managers must communicate through all platforms and vehicles such as text, phone, email, and videoconferencing, Vela added.

Managers must remain diligent in their communications: clear, succinct and affirmative—continually demonstrating trust in their workforce and performance measurements. They must communicate more often than in a traditional workforce setting, being cognisant of striking a functional balance and not becoming a disruptive force that adversely impacts productivity.

“Utilise video conferencing to have face-time with your employee and give them an opportunity to discuss progress, roadblocks, and allow face-to-face mentorship time,” he said.

He warned that managers should fight the inclination to micromanage when the team is remote and out of sight as it will create interference and may lead to a decrease in productivity.

“Most workers are honest but some may yield to the temptation to do a Netflix marathon instead of work. Occasionally ask for updates on progress on projects if you notice a change in work progress,” he said.

Initially, the adjustment to remote work will create a certain uneasiness for both management and the workforce. It is imperative that managers present a calm and confident demeanour in all actions, policies, and communications, so as to elicit those same behaviours in their remote workforce.    

Management must be focused on the positive. Although forced to move to this model, if the tools available in the marketplace are properly utilised, the benefits from a remote workforce model are bountiful, he added.

“Focus on the positive and celebrate your employees’ wins when they hit their milestones,” Vela said.

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