While the COVID-19 pandemic forces most companies to adopt telework, what are the obstacles, best practices and concrete ways to implement it?

Two specialists give us some practical advice

Employees feeling isolated and downright loss of control for managers: Telework can have different impacts on employers and their employees, explains Laurent Vorelli, CRHA, President and Specialist in HR solutions at Propulsion HR. Not surprising, given that the two biggest challenges related to this form of work are power and interpersonal relationships, says Catherine Privé, CRHA, President and Associate Consultant at Alia Conseil Inc.

Establish a clear framework

In this context, the first thing to do is to ensure that a remote management framework is established as clearly as possible.  “If you have a telework policy, you may need to revise it and see if it needs to be relaxed or have some rules added,” says Vorelli. This provides reassurance to employees, he adds. Flexibility is also recommended; you might have special agreements with certain employees, for instance for family reasons. On the other hand, the reasons for this exception must be explained to the other employees, he adds. “It’s also important to be fair to all members of your team, especially when applying monitoring mechanisms,” adds Catherine Privé.

Cultivating empowerment

When they feel they are losing control, managers often tend to fall back on micro-management. This is a mistake. On the contrary, in the context of telework, more responsibilities and autonomy should be offered to the troops. “It’s important to cultivate empowerment among your employees, even if it seems like everything is slowing down right now. You’ll have to trust your employees, delegate certain projects and leave certain responsibilities up to your team, such as letting them manage their own schedules,” says Catherine Privé. In this sense, it’s better to focus on a results-oriented approach to management, advise the speakers.

Staying close

Telework is driving down informal communications, which are essential in a business. Nevertheless, it remains important to know how your troops are doing. “Even when doing remote management, you still need to do local management,” says Vorelli. “So you need to stay close to your employees, take the time to ask them how they’re doing, talk to them, catch up with them.” If it becomes too much to handle, CRHA advises taking a coaching approach with certain employees under the manager’s wing.

Recreating personal virtual links

Keep communication channels open to help your employees share their doubts, problems or even expectations with you. “It’s important to be there for them, even if you’re not there physically,” says Catherine Privé. So we need to put in place ways to connect with each person. In order to achieve this, the CRHA advises, among other things, scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with each member of the team.

Stimulating a feeling of belonging

In the same vein, technology can be used to help your troops nurture their relationships. Ideally, it is worth maintaining the rituals that were already in place, adds Laurent Vorelli. “You need to be able to recreate working conditions that are as similar as possible to the actual conditions.” Technology can also help—photo sharing, virtual meetings and events and highlighting individual successes, argues Catherine Privé. Because, despite the distance, we must maintain the company’s foundations, and cohesiveness is one of them, the councillor reminds us.

Four more tips

1-Set clear goals and expectations

You need to structure and guide the work of your employees. This will reassure them about your expectations, and it’ll be easier to manage results with regular follow-ups based on indicators.

2-Optimize communications

In telecommuting mode, more structure is needed. It’s the same for communication: Communication about how to work, the rules to be followed, etc., needs to be clear and direct.

3-Be present

Don’t wait until for your employees to contact you with a problem. Be proactive.

4-Multiply your communication channels

Since technology is not always stable, it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket—diversify your communication methods.

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