Conflict Resolution Best Practices for Remote Work Employees
How do you handle workplace conflicts when employees aren’t present in the workplace? It’s as tricky an issue as any among the many difficulties presented by remote work—which, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely here to stay for many American employers. And while not completely different from in-person resolutions, solving work-from-home issues presents its own set of challenges that HR and management need to be prepared to address. Here’s how.
Common Conflicts that Impact Remote Work Teams
Do virtual teams have more conflict than when operating in-person? It’s tough to say and often depends on the team, the industry, and the company’s approach to management. With this said, it’s certainly true that working remotely presents conflicts that are novel to inexperienced and unprepared managers.
This can be fixed. But, before organizations can resolve conflicts, it’s important to recognize them first. For human resources and management personnel, the following issues may come up as a result of ongoing virtual work operations:
- Time Off and Productivity Tracking: Organizations that employ non-exempt and exempt teammates might struggle with tracking time and productivity concerns. Tracking remote engagement can help employers monitor work-from-home team members and can be used to resolve conflicts.
- Professionalism: How teammates dress during remote work hours, proper protocols for video conferencing, and working with clients or web-chatting with colleagues can all create conflict for employees in remote-work settings.
- Poor Communication: Interacting with coworkers can be difficult when operating remotely. Without clear (and frequent) communication, projects can be delayed, instructions misinterpreted, and tasks mishandled.
- Lack of Instruction: Similar to poor communication, a lack of instruction and coaching from managers can leave employees feeling like they’re stranded on an island. For some, this might work just fine. But for others, the isolation can be damaging to productivity and mental health.To effectively navigate these issues, HR professionals must first evaluate their existing social media policies.
How Managers and HR Can Resolve Remote-Work Conflicts
People are unique. Conflicts are, too. That’s why a one-size-fits-all approach often doesn’t work when resolving workplace conflicts. However, managers and HR can help resolve conflicts on work-from-home teams with a few key best practices. These include:
- Set Clear Guidelines for Remote Work: Employees should know exactly what’s expected of them when they work remotely. This can include basic details such as when they’re supposed to be online, what projects they’re supposed to be working on, and the technology they need to operate to be successful in their remote role. Some roles may require more specific instructions than others, but no matter which direction you take, this information should be included in a remote work policy that’s clear and up-to-date.
- Conduct Daily Standup Meetings: Daily morning meetings aren’t complicated and they don’t have long agendas—it’s just an opportunity for teams to connect every morning for 15-30 minutes. These meetings may not directly resolve conflicts, but they give an opportunity for teammates to interact face-to-face and can help build camaraderie.
- Rely on Remote 1:1 Meetings Between Managers and Direct Reports: Conflict is common in almost every workplace. How your team handles it is what matters. Consider encouraging management to host weekly 1:1 meetings with their direct reports. This approach gives employees the chance to cover projects they’re working on as well as discuss any issues they may have, either with colleagues, certain tasks, or other topics.
- Codify Your Remote Work Policy in Your Culture Guide: If you have a remote work policy, it should be codified in detail in your company’s Culture Guide (an elevated employee handbook that catalogs your company culture).
- Make Your Culture Guide Easily Available: Transparency is a key component of compliance. In other words, if you want employees to follow your remote work policy, they need to be able to actually review the policy. Put your Culture Guide online for all employees to access at any time.
What Else Can Employers Do to Resolve Remote Work Conflicts?
When was the last time you revisited your remote work policy? Doing so gives HR the opportunity to set clear and effective guidelines to help employees be more effective and productive in how they use technology, how they work, and how they interact with their coworkers.
On top of everything that specifically applies to remote work, HR teams need to keep in mind that common compliance laws still govern offices, even if offline.
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