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Signs Your Team is Struggling to Work Remotely

Remote work is here to stay. Especially as tasks increasingly become automated. But the sudden change to working remotely might be a challenge for a few.

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Remote work is here to stay. Especially as tasks increasingly become automated. But the sudden change to working remotely might be a challenge for a few.

Photo credit: wayhomestudio

The outbreak of Covid-19 has foisted on us the imperative of remote work. And has forced many organizations to reinvent their culture and work ethic. Employees now work in a hybrid fashion and many more are allowed flexibility in man-hours. However, this drastic pivot to remote work triggers a setback that impacts employee productivity.

Some employees might have a hard time readjusting to the inexorability of working in silos for extended periods. Others might be subject to distractions (freedom) emanating from unsupervised work …sort of like not having your manager breathing down your neck and watching you like a vulture. Yea, and it’s true.

Along the same logic, employees can easily get carried away by their familial responsibilities and the need to cater to their wards. All these and more can impact the productiveness of an employee. And it’s the duty of a manager to spot downturns in the performance of an employee and be able to offer assistance to remedy the kinks.

In this article, you’d learn how to identify issues with employees working remotely and what to do about them.

Focus on non-verbal communication

Although we may not share a physical space with our colleagues, we can still utilize our virtual meetings to see and hear if our colleagues are acting out of their recognizable work ethic. This will rely on how well you know your team members. As each person will have their own distinctiveness with regard to commitment to work.

Is their communication style different – are they quieter than usual on calls or perhaps they may be more frantic and fast-paced in terms of their communication?

Do they think of numerous reasons not to have their camera on when normally they would? Encouraging people to turn on their camera can have a positive impact on their attitude as it encourages them, in the simplest of terms, to dress up and be “business ready”.

Are they increasingly late to planned meetings or eager to leave before the end of the meeting?

It's important to recognize any changes in a colleague's messaging style. In the same way that a colleague who is struggling can become physically absent from work, they can be “absent” with their communication style:


  • Does an employee send emails at unusual times of the day? Such as outside of working hours or on their day off


  • Are they less responsive than usual?


  • Is their communication style different – more abrupt or lengthier?


Make talking about mental health normal

Mental health should be established as a regular, legitimate subject for team discussions, for instance by holding events dedicated to the topic, and by using mental health awareness days throughout the year as a basis for conversations.


Be aware of assumptions

Employers should not assume that a particular demographic in their workforce is more prone to mental health issues than others. While there's evidence to suggest that younger people's mental health has been disproportionately affected by working behind a screen, mental health issues can affect everyone.


Reconsider your onboarding process

It is important to remember that newcomers to the business may find it harder to form relationships working remotely, identify the unspoken rules of the new workplace, and seek help from colleagues.

These challenges could make matters worse if their mental health was already challenged by a period of unemployment or a furlough. Create extra opportunities for social interactions to support their integration into the team.


Are you proactively checking in?

But how often do you proactively video call those team members who may need a little support – sometimes a call out of the blue can break the negative thought process of a colleague and make them feel less isolated.

Always maintain eye contact. Video calls are distracting as we can see ourselves on screen (which for some of us is our idea of hell). Concentrate on engaging with the person you are calling and truly show you are listening to them.

Be direct with your questioning. Ask your team how they are making time for their well-being each week – ensure they know it is top of the agenda, as this will ensure they feel supported and can safely voice how they feel.


Keep teams cohesive

Team members can get regular updates with upbeat communications outlining progress within the business and team achievements. These can foster a sense of belonging and can help counteract the isolation some experience when working remotely.

And remember to take your holidays. It is so important to give yourself a break. Use your holidays to take time away from your job – and put your laptop and phone away!


Managers have mental health needs too

Leading with compassion can make a real difference to employees, but managers mustn't forget to take care of their own mental health and wellbeing needs. Being truly compassionate towards employees is not possible unless self-compassion is learned first.

To sum it up, managers should always carry out routine checks and keep an eye out for downticks in the productivity of remote teams. Managers should observe, be empathetic, and hold discussions with teams to proffer ways to improve individual performance.

You'll also like: How to improve the onboarding of remote employees

Written by

Tobey C. Okafor

Internet Entrepreneur and Content Writer based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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