The massive surge in remote working due to COVID-19 has created dispersed workforces practically overnight.

It is a decision forced on organisations and individuals who may have previously considered such a notion impractical and divisive; such as teams of executives running retail operations.

This has left business leaders with a massive logistical nightmare, which has no doubt consumed their initial time and reactions. Particularly in businesses facing financial hardship, or companies facing unimaginable shifts in demand, such as food retailers.

Getting to grips with the practicalities of this new business landscape is bound to be the top priority.

However, there’s an insidious threat to productivity that managers need to keep in mind.

Remote working is not for everyone! Having it thrust upon you – especially in a crisis and so quickly – could leave some of your team ill-prepared mentally as well as physically.

Here are tips to keep reluctant remote workers focused and performing at the required level.

Calmly acknowledge blocks

It’s vital to use emotional intelligence in your leadership style. This includes empathising with their problems, using no blame or shame, and expressing willingness to support them in finding a positive way forward. Even if this means amending their tasks and deadlines when feasible. If you ‘give a little’ they may be more inclined to invest a lot more effort!

Guiding them to good working practices

You should encourage them to craft a distinct workspace at home and to approach their tasks as they would under normal circumstances. This means getting dressed (even if rather more casually)!

Reinforce the need to maintain a work-life balance too. At the end of a working day, they need to switch off from tasks and immerse themselves in leisure and family pursuits.

Check in regularly

The primary reason people avoid or dislike remote working is isolation. Never has this been a more tangible and understandable reaction than today.

The best leaders will be the ones who take time out from their own fire-fighting, to simply check in with personnel. Especially ones showing falling levels of productivity, focus and engagement.

Using low-key social exchanges, you can show appreciation and recognition, to reignite team spirit and cohesion.

Keep sharing the company vision

Your entire dispersed workforce – reluctant or otherwise – will need to be constantly reminded where your organisation is heading, and how their roles and responsibilities can contribute to business goals.

This is not because they are forgetful. It’s because they are human.

The words ‘thank you’ carry a lot of weight at times like this, and the feeling of being included and consulted. Providing your remote workers with positive affirmations and a chance to voice concerns will help. Sharing with them a vision of a positive outcome – whatever that looks like – can also lift their spirits and engagement.

For more help in leading a newly dispersed team – including reluctant or unproductive remote workers – contact Anthony Gregg.