How to Help Employees Start Working Remotely for the First Time

Dharshan Chandran Remote Work
working remotely cover

At the office, you have your routine down. You know what resources your team needs and how to get them, and your employees know where to go and what to do when they encounter problems. But working remotely has challenges that are different from the challenges encountered in the office. You and your team have to complete the same projects, but in a completely different environment.

Adjusting to working remotely for the first time can be difficult. Your employees rely on you to help them through the confusing influx of new technology, obstacles to collaboration, and other challenges. We’ll work through some common challenges of working remotely and show how you, as a manager, can help your team make the transition.

Challenges for Employees Working Remotely—and How You Can Help

Working remotely for the first time can be overwhelming for employees, especially if they’ve had to switch suddenly from working in an office to working from home. As a manager, it’s up to you to help them adjust and get back on track. The key to this is patience and leading with empathy. This is a new and frustrating change for everyone, and your employees want to get back to normal as much as you do.

These common remote-work challenges will help you better understand what employees are going through and what you can do to help.

Influx of new technology

Newly remote employees have to quickly learn and adjust to technologies they may be completely unfamiliar with. For example, teams working remotely may have to use video conferencing and online collaboration tools, which they may be unfamiliar with.

New employees may still need help onboarding to the software already used by your company as well, but now they have to learn it from their homes, with fewer resources.

Employees have to adapt to new technology without being able to have a coworker or manager pop over to their desk and demonstrate how to use the technology or point out why something isn’t working. One way you can help employees overcome this challenge is to implement a digital adoption platform (DAP). DAPs help employees adjust to working remotely by guiding them through unfamiliar technology.

working remotely - DAPs

With a digital adoption platform, you can create walk-throughs that will take users step-by-step through each section of your new technology. DAPs also have self-help menus that you can populate with articles and videos from your knowledge base. These features provide extra guidance and help your employees quickly adapt to using that new collaboration tool or video conferencing software.

If some members of your team are having a particularly difficult time, you can set up microlearning plans with specific tasks and walk-throughs for them to complete. For example, you might assign a user a microlearning plan for setting up and using Zoom. They would go through multiple walk-throughs to set up their account, schedule their first meeting, and open their first meeting. This allows you to track their progress and see where they’re having the most trouble, so you can offer targeted guidance where they need it most.

Obstacles to collaboration

Another challenge for newly remote employees is trying to collaborate. Teams still have to work together on projects, but they can no longer meet physically the way they used to. Your employees have to learn to collaborate remotely, which means multiple people working on the same project from different locations. Working remotely also means adjusting to asynchronous communication, when they’re used to collaborating in real-time.

You can help by starting at the very beginning of the project. Set up remote brainstorming tools, and schedule team video sessions for real-time collaboration. Video conferencing is a great tool for remote teams, so encourage regular video chats throughout the process, especially if there is any confusion due to asynchronous collaboration. Online collaboration tools like Taskade are helpful as well. Taskade provides a single place to track tasks, make notes, and communicate with your team, so everyone stays on the same page.

If you do implement any new online collaboration tools, you can use your digital adoption platform to help your team adjust and learn as they go.

Unclear expectations

Employees working remotely for the first time suddenly find themselves in a different routine, without regular meetings or in-person communication of expectations. They may be unsure of new timelines, working hours, or output. If they have product-related questions or concerns about their own productivity levels, they may not know how to address them. Employees don’t know how the switch to working remotely will affect their work day-to-day, and this uncertainty can cause anxiety and difficulty moving forward with projects.

The main thing you can do to clear up uncertainty in your team is to overcommunicate. If you’re not sure whether an expectation or deadline needs to be spelled out, spell it out anyway. With a remote team, it’s better to over-communicate than to risk under-communicating.

working remotely- communication

To make sure everyone is on the same page, host regularly scheduled team standups. Encourage overcommunication from employees’ side as well, so you know if anyone is struggling. Check in with employees individually by scheduling one-on-one video chats and communicating regularly through online channels like chat and email. Overcommunication may feel redundant at times, but it’s the best way to make sure your team is clear on what’s expected of them.

Lack of socialization

Working remotely can feel isolating. Your team was used to interacting with coworkers in the hallway, in the break room, or at the watercooler. Without organic social interaction, employees have no outlet for nonwork conversation. This is especially true now, when most people have limited or no social interaction outside of work, either.

In many cases, lack of socialization directly affects work as well. In a study, Harvard Business Review found that employees who felt lonely were less productive and less emotionally invested in their company. Working remotely can feel like working alone, making employees less inclined to collaborate and seek help.

As a manager, it’s your job to encourage socialization within your team. Set up team communication tools, such as Slack or Google Hangouts, with dedicated nonwork channels. Lead by example, especially at first, by regularly posting topics and questions that invite a response.

Encourage regular nonwork video calls between employees. You could, for example, set up a “virtual carpool.” Since employees no longer have a commute, suggest that they set aside that time to meet with one or more coworkers and socialize. When you host team meetings, spend the first few minutes chatting about nonwork topics, just as you would before an in-person meeting.

Implementing new training tools and communication habits will help your team feel connected and informed as they adjust to working remotely.

Challenges for First-Time Remote Managers

Managers working remotely for the first time also face a big adjustment, especially when it comes to how you manage. For one thing, you have to deal with productivity concerns. You need to find ways to keep employees accountable and keep product timelines on track without being in the same building as your team.

To effectively help your team switch to working remotely, you’ll have to adjust your management style. This includes learning to overcommunicate and being flexible. With employees at home, often with family and kids around, a strict 9-5 schedule may not always be possible. Allowing flexibility with hours can help boost productivity and make the transition easier for both you and your employees.

You also have to learn all the new tools you’re asking your employees to learn. As you work through each new technology, take stock of where you had the most trouble and where you think employees will need extra guidance. Use your experience to add new walk-throughs, extra self-help videos, and more articles to your digital adoption platform. That way, your employees will be able to quickly learn the new technology and get back to their normal levels of productivity.

Help Your Employees Adapt with a Digital Adoption Platform

New technology can help address many of the challenges facing remote teams, but employees and managers have to learn the technology before it can help with productivity. Digital adoption platforms dramatically speed up and smooth out the transition to working remotely.

Use your experience learning the technology to add detailed walk-throughs and extra self-help guides in areas you found particularly tricky. Gather regular feedback from your employees, and use that to add more guidance in sections of the technology employees are struggling with. Transitioning suddenly to working remotely can be jarring, but if you remain open to frequent communication, you’ll be able to get your team back on track.

Dharshan Chandran

Dharshan Chandran

Product Marketing Manager at Whatfix
Dharshan, with 8+ years of corporate experience, has helped take early-stage enterprise SaaS products to market in various industries. His current focus is on the HR tech space and how evolving technology is helping enterprises digitize their workspace and drive employee engagement.
Dharshan Chandran
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