Tips on Managing A Remote Workforce

The trend among companies to employ remote workers has accelerated since the onset of the coronavirus. The hardwood lumber industry has been no exception! As more and more of us come to rely upon a remote workforce, it might be a good time to consider ways to more effectively manage off-site workers and achieve the greatest productivity—and engagement—among these valued employees as we can.

Recently, we have been focused on trying to find ways to empower our workforce, whether they’re located at our workplace or in a remote setting. Here are a few best practices we have come across that you might find value in as well.  

remoteworkforceClarify goals and expectations. With so much of the business world in flux, it’s not surprising that employees consigned to work offsite might not be altogether clear on any new expectations and/or goals a company may have in mind. It’s crucial to clearly define new tasks or responsibilities an employee is expected to take on while working offsite.  

Just as importantly, emphasize how much each remote worker is contributing to the business during these challenging times. As we have noted elsewhere, “When employees see that their personal contribution affects company growth, their sense of engagement with the company deepens.”  

And if there’s ever been a time to promote employee engagement, this is it. 

Provide the best technology to support remote work. At a bare minimum, remote employees should have a laptop and mobile phone. But if you plan on holding regular virtual meetings, it will be necessary to support downloading of appropriate meeting technology apps and probably video capability as well. We have been surprised and excited to see how the team has adopted to using collaboration tools with multi-use platforms including videoconferencing!  

Define a new “communications etiquette.” Communicating with offsite employers can be vastly different than calling an employee into your office to explain a new project or initiative. Make clear at the outset that “virtual communications are different—and won’t be perfect—but should still be professional and respectful to others,” notes Gartner, a research and advisory company. Provide coaching as needed, since you shouldn’t “just assume that people know how to operate with virtual communications—or are comfortable in that environment.” 

Be patient with distractions occurring in the remote worker’s setting. Many of your employees are also taking care of children and/or others in their household. That naturally means that some kind of distraction is always possible for remote workers.  

Whatever the situation, be aware that “distractions seem to come with the telecommuting territory,” as Insperity notes. As long as “such incidents don’t become routine, patience is helpful—especially when remote work is a temporary solution” to a present crisis. 

Maintain your employee recognition efforts. Even (or especially) in a remote setting, employees need to know their efforts and sacrifices are noted by the company. You may already have an employee recognition program in place. If so, this could be a good time to reconfigure the program so the focus shifts to the contributions made by the remote team.  

There is no doubt that these unprecedented times call for a flexible approach to managing employees. Whether that be a hardwood lumber trader now working from their dining room table, a sawmill manager working in a different building or a dry kiln supervisor having to complete their paperwork offsite. We all need to adjust to a flexible work environment and embrace the new ways to work. 

By reinforcing the concept that “we’re all in this together” we feel we will encourage our team to continue to work hard any overachieve. What are your thoughts? What best practices can you share? 

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber
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