Over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have shifted to working fully remote. While there are plenty of benefits to a remote or hybrid workflow, they can also present many new challenges. For instance, it is much more challenging to collaborate with coworkers. In a physical office, it is easy to spontaneously talk to a coworker or grab lunch with them to discuss work topics. However, when working remotely, it requires much more planning and organization. Another challenge employees face when working from home is a sense of burnout and isolation. When working in a physical office space, employees attend meetings throughout the day with plenty of time to recharge themselves. However, when working online, it can be easy to forget to take breaks, and the lack of in-person interactions can be very lonely. Given these challenges, managers need to understand how to manage their employees in an online environment successfully. Here are 7 specific tips that managers can use to help employees have better time management when working online.
1. Clearly communicate with your roommates
When working from home, it can be challenging to focus when you are living with roommates or a partner. There might be a limited amount of space to take important work calls, or there might be other responsibilities that you need to attend to throughout the day. As a manager, you can recommend that your employees practice clear communication with their roommates or partners to reduce distractions and increase productivity. For instance, roommates or partners can create a shared schedule, where everyone can write down all the important events they need to complete for the day and where they will occur. Using a shared schedule, everyone will feel that they are on the same page, and it will be easier to work productively.
2. Have specific spaces for work
Before Covid-19, when employees would work in a physical office, it would be very easy to get into “work mode,” because there were few distractions and a pre-existing association between the office and productive, focused work. When working from home, this association is non-existent, and there are far more distractions. For example, once you finally sit down and start to do work, you suddenly remember that you need to empty the dishwasher or do a load of laundry. To combat these distractions, managers should encourage employees to work in designated spaces. Working in a specific area every day has a ton of benefits. For instance, employees will be more focused and have a clearer mind. Once you have identified a good workspace, you must keep it organized, and after the workday is over, you should encourage employees to socialize in other parts of their home or apartment.
3. Try to get employees to use apps that can increase productivity
Even with a designated workspace, working from home can still be very distracting. When employees are not in an office, it is easy to spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling on social media, reducing productivity. Luckily, there are many apps managers can recommend that are designed to increase focus, such as Focus Timer, Forest, and Opal. Using these apps, employees can focus in manageable “sprints,” which should help increase productivity. To incentivize this behavior, managers can reward the employee who has the most amount of focused time every month and offer some prize or reward.
4. Use apps designed for virtual work and set clear daily objectives
When working remotely from home, it can be very challenging to efficiently manage a team and make sure that everyone is on the same page. For instance, it might not be apparent to employees when specific items need to be completed. To increase organization when working from home, managers should use particular apps that are designed to help teams collaborate. A great tool is Notion. Using Notion, you can create a daily to-do list of all the items that need to be completed and share it with the team. Notion updates live, so if you add or remove any items from the list, all the team members will see it instantly. You can also use Notion to create product roadmaps, so team members will have a sense of the overall goal and will be able to stay on the same page. By having all the project deadlines and project roadmap in one place, employees will have a better understanding of what they are working on and will be way more productive.
5. Check in with the team once a day over Zoom/Webex
For many employees, especially if they live alone, remote work can feel isolating and lonely. Employees can also feel very disconnected from the team because they do not see each other in person. Given this, managers should make an effort to briefly speak to each team member once per day or every other day. During these conversations, it is important for both managers and employees to provide constructive feedback and offer suggestions to make remote work better. In addition to one-on-one meetings, managers should hold team meetings once per week where members can catch up and talk about work. Since team members don’t have as many opportunities to casually talk to each other as they would in a physical office, it is important for managers to bridge the gap and provide opportunities for casual conversation. By having these unstructured meetings where people can casually chat about work, the team also stays up to date on all the elements of a particular project.
6. Reward yourself and your employees
As a manager, it is important to recognize the challenges employees have faced while working remotely. Employees practically spend their entire day looking at a computer screen, and it can feel very isolating for many people. To combat Zoom fatigue and make sure that employees feel energized and work productively, managers should organize fun virtual events that show their appreciation and gratitude. For instance, managers could organize a virtual happy hour for Friday afternoon where co-workers are able to decompress from the hectic workweek. While it might seem counterintuitive, planning fun activities for employees will increase overall productivity.
7. Set an example, dress in office attire even if you are working from home
Although you are working from home, it is important for managers to set a professional tone and dress as they would be in the office. It is easy for employees to start thinking that virtual work is not “real work” and begin to be less productive and time-efficient. However, wearing business attire can help you get into “work mode” and help you become more efficient and effective. In fact, a study conducted by Northwestern University concluded that the clothing you wear has an impact on your psychological process. So, while it might seem like a small difference, encouraging employees to wear professional attire can have a tangible impact on productivity.
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