7 Tips for Managing Workplace Disruption and Maximizing Remote Workers

Try these tricks on improving communication and company culture, even while working from a distance.
7 Tips for Managing Workplace Disruption and Maximizing Remote Workers
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The world is an entirely different place than it was just a few months ago. So, how can you still manage your team and maintain a productive workforce? Here are seven ways to accomplish those goals.

1. Prioritize your team’s health and wellness.

Hands down, protecting your team needs to be your priority right now. After all, if your employees and your team not taking care of themselves — how can they have the energy to focus on their work? More importantly, though, it’s the right thing to do.

How can you care about the health and wellness of another individual? For starters, a lot has already been done by allowing your employees to work from home. If you are leading a team where they must come into work, make sure you provide protective gear and take precautionary measures. 

Take care to encourage social distancing and masks within the workplace. Work at improving “building health measures” like cleaning, air filtration and ventilation. I got a HEPPA filter in our office for additional protection when we can get back in there.

A study by Stephanie K. Johnson found that leader self-sacrifice, such as cutting one’s own salary or giving up one’s own benefits, caused employees to feel more positively toward their leaders and more committed to their organizations during crises. These are the types of support that your employees need at this time.

For now, encourage the use of teletherapy and virtual medical visits. Help your newly remote team just like you do your full-time remote team. You can also offer access to mental and fitness apps like Headspace, Aaptiv and 8fit Workout and Meal Planner. Other suggestions would be sending them healthy snacks to their home, establishing a more flexible schedule and offering unlimited vacations.

Be sure to encourage your team members to work remotely and get help if they need it, both mentally and physically. Let them know that it's okay to not be okay right now. Many people are worried about the future, and it's likely someone on your team is not doing well.

Related: 10 Tips From CEOs on Working From Home Effectively and Happily

2. Balance structure and flexibility.

When we have structure, such as a daily routine or schedule, we’re better at managing time, focus and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Right now, the daily structure also provides a sense of normalcy, which can help ease anxiety.

At the same time, you need to be more flexible. Let’s say you have employees who are currently at home with their children — you can’t expect them to jump on a last-minute video call while homeschooling their kids. It won't be easy, but you can find harmony. For example, if you always had team meetings at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, then keep the meeting as a recurring event on your calendar. If your team has always submitted specific tasks before the end of the workday on Fridays, then keep those deadlines.

But, you also need to realize that everyone’s schedules have drastically changed. As a consequence, your team members might not always be available during regular working hours. As long as your people are delivering quality work, don’t obsess over the exact hours that they’re working each day.

3. Make sure your team is prepared for their jobs.

According to a March Gallup survey, "55 percent of full-time workers strongly agreed that they felt well prepared to do their job.” Do you think that stat has improved as more people have adjusted to remote working? 

What can you do to correct this problem? Refocus on basic engagement elements. According to the Gallup survey, these include “clarifying expectations, making sure employees have the materials, training and equipment they need. Keep working to reconfigure jobs so that people can continue to do what they do best every day.”

In times of stress and trouble, your employees need to know with certainty that they are essential to your business. Though it will be harder on you as an employer to think about how to reassure your employees, lifting a person's mood will help them work harder to save your business.

Moreover, make sure that your team has access to the tools and resources needed to do their job. Examples would be:

  • Access to workplace tools like CRM or enterprise social networks.
  • Communication and collaboration platforms, such as Dropbox, Slack, Zoom or VoIP.
  • Antivirus, firewall and other security apps.
  • Devices like computers, printers and screens.
  • Items that can help them design a functional workspace like a standing desk or a better desk chair.

Related: Pro Tools to Run Your Business Remotely While Working From Home

4. Help your team overcome new distractions.

If you have people working from home for the first time, they need to be aware of the possible challenges. Some of the most common would be distractions, holding themselves accountable, and self-discipline.

How can you assist them? Well, you could share with them the following time management tips when working from home:

  • Set up a separate workspace — preferably not the couch or kitchen table.
  • Pretend like you’re still going to work by getting dressed and sticking to a schedule.
  • Keep track of your time so you can see how you’re actually spending your time.
  • Identify and eliminate distractions.
  • Be wary of “displaced productivity.” An example of this would be cleaning the dishes or laundry when you should be working. While important, they’re not a priority at the moment.
  • Kick off each day with a win, even if it’s something as simple as making your bed. End the day by reflecting on what you’re grateful for.
  • Establish and enforce boundaries. Don’t play with your kids in the time you blocked out for work. Time-blocking assistants can help you achieve this.
  • Align your schedule with your priorities and work when you’re at peak productivity.
  • Break larger projects down into more manageable chunks.
  • Automate, delegate or outsource whatever you can.

5. Offer incentives.

Incentives are a simple and easy way to increase happiness, morale, engagement, motivation and teamwork. You can offer your remote team rewards like gift cards, provide additional vacation days or have a weekly shoutout at the beginning of a virtual meeting. 

You could also do something like a virtual office celebration like a party, movie night or friendly competition. A friend told me he'd had a virtual "happy hour" with his team in the last few weeks, and everyone came! That's every single employee — unheard of before this mess. He believes his team will be more connected when they can return to the office.

6. Communicate often.

If there is one drawback to working remotely, it’s that you and your team don’t have the opportunity to chit chat. That may not sound like a big deal. But, it likely is vital to your team, and it’s an effective way to build rapport and address any problems quickly and efficiently.

While it may not be as powerful as face-to-face interactions, use a variety of tools to stay connected to your team. I’m talking about Slack, Zoom, Teams, FaceTime or whatever channels you and your team have access to.

I recommend creating an open-door (messaging) strategy. For instance, when not focusing on deep work, be visible on Slack or your preferred direct messaging service. You should also schedule frequent virtual team meetings, as well as one-on-ones, to check in with your team.

Related: 14 Proven Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills

7. Prepare a post-crisis assessment.

A recent Forrester survey found that 41 percent of working adults are afraid to go back to work. Even if they aren’t scared of returning to work, there’s no denying that the world will be different. There still may be stay-at-home orders or a preference for people to stick to their new routine.

Regardless, you and your team have to be ready for what’s going to happen next. Using data like absences and performance metrics, you can see what strategies and tools worked well and which didn’t. You can also ask your team what lessons were learned and in what direction your organization should go next to avoid future disruptions.

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