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INTRODUCTION

Working from home has been a hot topic over the last few years, and has been on the rise. But how do you decide that remote working is something for your organisation and how do you manage your remote employees once you have decided to implement remote working? These are crucial questions for any employer that considers implementing remote working, and therefore, we will focus on answering these questions in this Bite Size. 

The main aims of this BIte Size are: 

  • Understand the main implications of remote working and how it might be adapted to one’s own workplace 
  • Gain knowledge on different strategies to manage your remote staff 
  • Learn how to become a more skilled manager for your staff 

THEORETICAL INFORMATION

Remote working has been on a rise ever since Covid-19 and chances are it is here to stay. Even though Covid-19 somehow forced companies to adopt flexible working policies, it has proven that both employees as employers have found remote working quite a solution. Research has shown that across the EU, still an average of 30% regular workers still work from home (WFH), even after Covid-19. 

However, this depends on how well remote working can be incorporated within an organisation. This is simply because not all jobs can be done from home, some jobs just require a certain physical presence. Which is also the case in the Blue Economy, where it might be easier to adopt remote working for some sectors, whereas for others it might be near impossible. 

Therefore, the first step to remote working is considering whether it is the right thing to do for your business. When you have considered the different main points, and you think it is something that would suit your business, then we will give you some tips and tricks on how to manage your remote staff the best way possible.  

Considering whether to go remote? 

This might be a difficult topic for some companies to address, since it is a delicate HR practice. Therefore, it is important to realise that Covid-19 has changed remote work considerably, and that changes keep on coming. Thus, whatever decision you will take eventually, make sure you keep updated with HR matters related to both workers’ rights as control of staff outside the office premises.   

Before you decide that working remotely might be a good thing for your business, it is crucial to consider some main points. These points could help you in deciding whether to switch to a fully remote working style, a hybrid working style, or keeping your business the way it is.  

Company’s sector 

There are many sectors in which remote working can be easily adopted due to the nature of the work, think of sectors such as human resources, recruiting, accounting, marketing, etc. Even though most blue economy sectors fall by the wayside, businesses can choose to let parts of the organisation work remotely. 

For example, in fishery it is not possible to let the fishermen work from home, however for people working in accounting or management remote working might be interesting.  Gain more insight on examples per sector in “Sectoral Info”. 

Technology 

In order to make sure your employees are able to work as efficiently and smoothly as possible, it is crucial to arrange the right technology. Make sure the right systems are available for the employees to use from home. Remember that there is no need to reinvent the wheel yourself, you’ll likely be able to find tools that can benefit your business.  

Flexibility 

Having a flexible mindset as an employer is also a crucial part for managing remote staff, since you need to be prepared to handle any issues that may arise, from technical difficulties to family emergencies. 

Therefore, you will need to be prepared to put systems in place to handle interruptions and be prepared to be clear about work requirements (such as working hours and availability).  

Management skills 

Remote workers do not have the same needs as workers in the office have. This means that you will have to manage your staff in a different way too. It is important to consider whether this is something you would want to do, since it might mean you will have to go the extra mile to be clear about deadlines and requirements. 

Moreover, you will need to put systems in place to allow for regular check-ins and meetings, to make sure there is still effective communication.  

Before implementing remote working, it is recommended to consider abovementioned points: Do you think you will be able to provide your employees the right conditions to continue their work from home, and do you think that you are able to manage your remote employees? 

If you have never tried remote working, it might be helpful to do a trial run. Slowly implement remote work for a few months, and use this time to consistently collect feedback from your workers. Pay attention to what they think and take their feedback into consideration. 

Use the trial run to gauge the level of productivity, effectiveness and motivation of your employees, and see whether this could be improved in some way. When the trial run proves to be a positive experience to both the business as the employees, remote work could be a good idea for your organisation.  

If you rather implement a trial run on a smaller scale, there are also different options to try. Read the following article for smaller trial runs: 3 Ways to Give Remote Work a Test Run – AnswerConnect Blog  

How to manage your remote staff 

Once you have decided remote working could work for your organisation, it is important to keep in touch with your employees and know how their work is going and how they feel during their work. 

Where you can keep a close eye on your employees’ desk time, visible activity levels and their mood during work in the office, it is more difficult to read your employees when they work from home. Therefore, remote working requires a different approach to managing your remote staff. 

In any case it is important to take the workers’ rights into account. Every EU worker has certain minimum rights to health and safety at work and labour law. Make sure to respect those rights in any case. 

We will give some tips on how to manage your remote employees in the best way possible. See below 6 strategies to consider when managing you remote staff. 

Expectation setting 

Before kicking off WFH,, it is important everyone knows what is expected from them. From managers to employees. Therefore, some ground rules for work and communication need to be established. These ground rules can vary from the working hours, whether this is standard from 9 till 5 or whether employees can choose their own hours as long as they finish their tasks, to rules on meeting schedules, to productivity standards.  

Some important factors to take into account during the expectation setting is that employers should focus on how the staff can work together in the best way possible. Moreover, it might be an idea to involve your employees in deciding on the ground rules. By involving them in the decision-making process, they will not only feel more engaged but they are also more likely to be motivated to keep those rules.  

Furthermore, by setting expectations you also create a certain structure for your employees. This will help them in understanding what is expected from them, what they can expect from you and in creating a team rhythm. Especially establishing the team structure can be crucial for managing your remote staff, since everyone works in different locations they are likely to feel disconnected. By creating a structure, employees not only know when it is expected from them, but they also know what different people are doing. This will give them an idea of both where they fit in the process as a feeling of engagement.    

Understand challenges in remote work 

In order to set the expectations, it is important that you also understand what challenges your employees might face when working from home. 

The more you are aware of these obstacles, the more proactively you can manoeuvre to overcome the challenges. Moreover, acknowledging these challenges also shows your support and empathy to your staff. 

Therefore, it is important to communicate regularly with your team and discuss both within the whole team, as well as 1-to1 exchanges on what challenges they are facing, and what you could do to help them. Some examples of red flags that you need to watch out for are: 

  • Loneliness and isolation 
  • Feeling left out 
  • Overworking  
  • Surrounding distractions 

Furthermore, as a manager you will also face some challenges that differ from the challenges of working in the office. It is crucial for you to understand these challenges, to make sure you are able to act on them. 

Some challenges that you might face are: 

  • Less interaction – for some people the screen acts as a strong barrier to get involved in discussions or social chats. Which can lead to them moving more and more to the background. Therefore, it might be a challenge to keep them involved anyhow.   
  • Video fatigue – not every employee likes to turn their camera on during meetings. This makes it difficult to determine how involved and engaged the employee is in your discussion/presentation or game. You can empower your employees, by deciding as a team and when meeting internally if they want to be on camera or not.  
  • Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks – whether it is bad internet connection, more difficult to pop around for a question or messages that go unnoticed, working from requires other communication approaches than in the office. Therefore, it is important to realise you will need to handle your communication in a different way than you might be used to.  

Learn more about the challenges of working remotely, watch this video: Challenges of Working Remotely  

Focus on communication – Manager’s approachability and accessibility 

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely for employees is the accessibility and approachability of the employer or manager, and for the employer/manager it is the non-verbal communication. 

Where on site or in the office you are able to see each other passing by or reading someone’s mood, you will have to look for each other when you work from home. 

Therefore, it is extremely important to have an open line of communication and remove any communication barriers. Team members need to know when they are able to reach out to you, and that you are also actually accessible during these moments. Moreover, you need to reach out to your employees on a regular basis as well. That is not only crucial to see the productivity of the employee, but also to see how motivated and engaged the staff is. 

By maintaining a constant communication with the team and also prioritising one-on-one time with each of your employees, you ensure that you are visible, approachable and accessible, despite working from home.   

Focus on communication – Within the team  

Other than the communication from you to your employees, the connections among the staff is also important to take into account. To make sure these connections and communication run as smoothly as possible, it is helpful to put some communication agreements into place. 

Using certain communication channels are essential for remote interaction, for example using email, instant messages and video calls. But also agreements on keeping the workday calendars up to date on a centralised platform, using “away” notifications and out-of-office replies, and agreements on team meetings. 

As mentioned before, it might be a good idea to involve your staff in making these agreements to make them feel more engaged and motivated. 

Source: Canva 

Also during meetings it is important to build on interactions among the staff. Briefly daily check-ins and staff meetings help foster collegiality. 

For example, start every day with a short team meeting, and a small talk question on how everyone feels today. Or organise once a week a longer meeting to check up on everyone’s work and expectations or things they have trouble with, and try to start this meeting with a fun and short icebreaker activity. Furthermore, you could think of organising once in a while a fun team moment, in which you can play an online game. Or you could even organise small coffee breaks on a regular basis during the week.  

These small coffee breaks could even be crucial to your staff, in order to encourage social interactions between your employees. Because when they are able to catch up on a personal level at the coffee machine or the water cooler in the office, they need to pass a certain barrier and actually look and ask for other team members in order to get to know each other and have an unrelated work chat. Therefore, you could try to organise daily or weekly moments in which you can put a few team members together (3 of 4 team members) and let them have a chat for a little while. Make sure to rotate the team members every once in a while to make sure they will talk to different people. You can easily organise this in different video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or Zoom.  

Lastly, you could implement a sort of buddy system. Match 2 or 3 employees together and make them buddies for a few weeks/a month, whatever the preference is. These buddies are able to contact each other for work related issues or questions, but they can also call each other for a coffee break. By implementing such a system, the barrier to just call someone might be lowered.  

Focus on communication – 1-to-1 communication  

As mentioned before, when you are working remotely, it is difficult to read your employees from their attitude or mood. Therefore, it is important to schedule 1-to-1 calls every once in a while, whether this is daily, weekly or monthly. These 1-to-1 calls should be used: 

  • to determine if the employee is doing well in general 
  • to identify if there are any problems the team member is facing 
  • to discuss plans for the employee’s professional development 
  • to answer any questions the employee has 

An essential note to 1-to-1 communication is that you adapt to your staff’s needs, preferences, calendars and job requirements. Because where one might need a call once a week, another team member prefers to have daily calls and maybe some other colleague requires only monthly calls.  

More tips on collaboration within remote teams can be found in the following video: How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote (The Explainer)  

Stay adaptable  

Lastly, one of the most vital characteristics of a remote staff manager is to stay adaptable and being flexible. 

Keep in contact with your employees to notice when some things are working very well or others are not working at all. Ask them for feedback and where you can improve your managing style where necessary. Learn from your team and your own experience and develop your managing style to get the results that you require.   

How to manage your remote staff in short: 

  • Set clear expectations for everyone 
  • Set ground rules for work and communication within the team 
  • Understand your staff’s challenges of remote working 
  • Understand your own challenge of remote working 
  • Carry out your remote version of an open-door policy 
  • Regular check-ins to keep updated and inspire authentic conversations 
  • Make room for interpersonal communication and fun activities 
  • Be flexible 
  • In any case it is important to take the workers’ rights into account. Every EU worker has certain minimum rights to health and safety at work and labour law. Make sure to respect those rights in any case. 

Last Tips & Tricks 

  • Establish trust – be open and transparent to your employees, make them see you rather as a coach, who wants to help them succeed.  
  • Tips for setting expectations – think inclusively and learn from your own and other’s experiences. Be realistic in the expectations that you set. Provide documents with the expectations and agreements, to make sure your employees are always able to read through it again.  
  • Spend time getting to know each other: teambuilding – make time to learn their personalities, working styles and habits and communication preferences. Organise virtual social gatherings and engage in remote-team-building activities. And adapt your management style to best support each individual employee.  
  • Ask feedback and discuss – in order to establish an open and transparent relationship with your employees, you can ask them for their feedback and discuss what expectations they have of your role. Make sure there are no confusions in what everyone is expecting from each other.  
  • Create a shared document where employees can share their tips and tricks with each other  Staff members might also have some great insights in how to use certain systems the best way possible. Or they have good tips on how to balance their work and their private life, or how to incorporate healthy behaviours into their work rhythm. Make sure all employees are able to share these helpful tips and make them also learn from each other.  

We also encourage you to watch the following video for more tips on managing remote teams: Remote Working for Managers  


SECTORIAL INFO 

    Tourism & Hospitality 

    In Tourism & Hospitality, due to its F2F factor, it might be difficult to let the employees work from home. 

    However, in some parts of the organisation it might be feasible to have people working remote. Therefore, it might be helpful to consider whether remote working is something for those parts of the organisation.  

      Leisure & Sport

      In the Leisure & Sport sector it is the same as in the tourism and hospitality sector, it might be difficult to let the employees work from home. 

      However, in some parts of the organisation it might be feasible to have people working remote, such as administration and management. Therefore, it might be helpful to consider whether remote working is something for those parts of the organisation.

      Energy

      Even though it is also important in the energy industry that some highly skilled operations and maintenance workers retain on-site, there are also many possibilities for employees in other parts of the business to work from home. 

      Therefore, this Bite Size could be useful for those managers who deal with staff that work remotely.  

      However, there are possibilities to also operate a remote working environment, Bill Moore even thinks it is needed. Read more about this in the following article: Guest Editorial | Why the Energy Sector Needs Remote Operations Capacity Today, and How to Succeed in the Transition (electricenergyonline.com)

      Fishery

       For the fishing industry, it is the same as the tourism and leisure sectors. The fishermen cannot work from home, they need to be on-site. 

      However, there might be possibilities for other parts of the business to work remote. For these departments it is important to consider if it is worthwhile and useful to change to a remote working environment, and when it is, this Bite Size might be useful for the managers of these departments.

      Environmental Protection

      In environmental protection there are not necessarily people need on-site, making it more likely for this industry to implement remote work in their businesses. 

      However, it is still important for organisations in this sector to start with considering whether remote work would be feasible in their organisation before actually implementing it.

      Transport & Port Activity

      In the transport & port activity sector the same goes as for the other industries, it all depends on what departments are able to work from home. In this sector there will always be an amount of employees necessary on-site.However, not all parts of the business might be necessary on-site. Making it possible for some of the departments to change to a remote working environment.

      Support Services

        For support services it also depends on what departments work on-site and what departments are able to work from home. Therefore, it is also important for companies in this industry to first consider whether remote work would be an option, before actually implementing it.


        ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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