7 Tips to Manage Employees Remotely During COVID-19
Establish Structured Daily Check-insEstablish a daily check-in with your employees so they can have a forum to consult with you, ask questions, and express any concerns they have regarding working remotely. The daily check-in can be in the form of a one-on-one or team conference call or video depending on if your employees work more independently from each other or if their work is highly collaborative. Increasing communication during this uncertain time is highly recommended.
Set Rules for Engagement
- Set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of the various communications within your team. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings but we use IM when something is urgent.”
- Let your employees know the best way and time to reach you during the workday. For example, “I tend to be more available late in the day for ad hoc phone or video conversations, but if there’s an emergency earlier in the day, send me a text.”
- Keep an eye on communication among team members, only as appropriate, to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.
Provide Opportunities for Remote Social InteractionStructure ways for employees to interact socially and have informal conversations about non-work topics while working remotely.
- Leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items (e.g., “We’re going to spend the first few minutes just catching up with each other. How was your weekend?”).
- Virtual pizza parties (in which pizza is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference)
- Virtual office parties (in which party “care packages” are sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously).
While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, it has been proven that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging.
Offer Encouragement and Emotional Support
- Acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their challenges.
- If an employee is clearly struggling but not communicating stress or anxiety, ask them how they’re doing. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can elicit important information that you might not otherwise hear.
- Once you ask the question, be sure to listen carefully to the response, and briefly restate it back to the employee, to ensure that you understood correctly.
- Let the employee’s stress or concerns be the focus of this conversation and remember to avoid your own.
Trust Your Team and Avoid Micromanaging
- Trust your employees to act independently, responsibly, and professionally. Agree on specific, measurable things that should be completed and delivered every week. Keep in mind that if you’re getting the results you need, there is really no need to worry about when, where, and how the employee is getting it done.
- Although it can be tempting to check in constantly to make sure employees are on task while they're working from home, micromanaging your team will only make them feel like you don't trust them. This can also have an impact on the engagement and morale of your employees.
Communication is Key
- Employees who are accustomed to working on-site may feel cut off from the resources, information, and relationships they need to do their jobs. To assist in overcoming this feeling, plan for more conference calls and pad socializing into the calls’ timeframe. Additionally, it may be vital for people who thrive on interaction to keep their energy up so be diligent about communicating productively and coach frequently on helpful topics.
- Keep the lines of communication open, honest and broad. Send emails or post videos about your reasoning, intentions, and expectations.
Change Your Productivity MindsetIt is unrealistic to think we can maintain pre-COVID-19 levels of productivity given the circumstances. It is imperative that you focus on keeping everyone safe and healthy while having an open mind about productivity. Specifically, what productivity means and how it can be achieved.
FAQs on Managing Your Staff While Working Remotely
How do I manage my staff effectively while working remotely?
The key is to set clear expectations for productivity, communicate often with employees by having daily/weekly check-in meetings, and have trust in your team. It is also recommended to provide encouragement, offer emotional support, and avoid micromanaging unless it’s in a positive manner.
How do I manage my full-time employee not having enough work for 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week?
Working remotely presents a different set of challenges for you as a manager and for the employee as a subordinate. Being creative about new tasks or other duties beyond what is normally assigned on campus can make a huge difference and add to a new layer of employee satisfaction. Maybe there are administrative duties they could assist with, reach out to your peers to see if there are any tasks that they could assist with, remotely.
Are employees required to take a lunch break while working remotely?
The policies related to lunch breaks still apply. Per MAPP 02.04.02 Hours of Work policy, each full-time employee is provided a meal break near the middle of the work day. The time for meal breaks may be scheduled by management in the department with appropriate regard for workload. The meal period should not exceed 60 minutes. However, meal breaks of different lengths may be approved where departmental work schedules require it and daily schedules are adjusted accordingly. Employees are not paid for meal breaks.
Can managers contact remote employees outside of normal work hours?
Managers are encouraged to be mindful of their employees’ work-life balance and regular work schedules. Contacting employees outside of normal work hours may be compensable time, specifically for non-exempt (hourly) employees, under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Prior to contacting employees, it is best to determine if it is truly necessary on a case by case basis and not make it a standard practice.
What approaches can supervisors take to follow up on performance challenges with a staff member?
Supervisors are encouraged to have communications with the employee regarding the challenges and collaborate with the employee on how overcome such challenges. This may include establishing short-term goals and setting up follow up dates to ensure the staff member has met the expectations of those goals.
I have previously been managing performance issues from my employee. Now that he/she is working remotely, the performance issues have worsened. What can I do?
You are encouraged to manage employees by following the progressive discipline protocols in collaboration with HR. Please refer to MAPP 02.04.03 Discipline and Dismissal of Staff Employees which outlines the disciplinary process.
Are managers allowed to discipline employees while working remotely?
Yes, progressive discipline can still occur remotely. While our goal is to ensure overall safety for all employees while displaying compassion and care, we are still able to address performance/misconduct issues that may arise.
How do I administer progressive discipline while working remotely?
In order to administer a formal reprimand, complete the Formal Employee Conference Record and submit to your HR Business Partner for review and approval before issuing to staff member. Upon approval, you can administer the document via telephone or video conference.
How do I obtain signatures, including employee acknowledgement, on the Formal Employee Conference Record?
In order to obtain signatures, both parties can print, sign, and return via scan (if capable). Alternatively, digital signatures are acceptable or email acknowledging documents will suffice.
Do I have to document all my conversations with my staff while working remotely?
While it is not required to document all conversations, it may assist you with managing expectations and performance, including deadlines, projects assigned, etc. If you are discussing performance or discipline issues, it is advisable to document your conversations. A follow up email to the employee including details of the conversation is advised.
Are probationary terminations being approved during COVID-19 time period?
All probationary termination requests are being reviewed and approved per normal guidelines. In order to submit a probationary termination request, a draft of the probationary letter of termination and justification must be submitted to your HR Business Partner for review. The justification should include a timeline of the issues and corrective actions taken. If you have questions about a probationary termination request, please contact your HR Business Partner to discuss further.
Can the probationary period be extended due to working remotely?
No, the probationary period will not be extended due to working remotely. The only option to extend the probationary period is if the employee is on an approved leave during their probationary period.
If I have a grant that is not being renewed, can I proceed with a Reduction in Force (RIF) while working remotely?
Yes, a Reduction in force (RIF) is being reviewed and approved per normal guidelines. In order to submit a reduction in force request, all the necessary documents to request the RIF must be submitted to your HR Business Partner. These documents include: RIF memo, notification letter to employee, current0 and proposed organizational chart, demographical information for the employee, and the job description (if available).