Managing Your Team in a Virtual World

virtual worldStaying connected with work-from-home employees can take a toll on managers and staff, but there are ways to keep the lines of communication open now that remote work is growing in prevalence. ACA International is hosting a Hot Topic webinar this week on virtual meeting fatigue and best practices to connect with your team in a remote work environment.

08/01/2022 12:00 P.M.

4.5 minute read

Working from home has its benefits, and agencies in the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry have made it work over the last two years—taking into account multiple new compliance, data security and licensing requirements.

But with that adjustment has also come some unknown challenges for agency managers and employees—such as taking on extra duties now that fewer workers are in the office on a regular basis and coping with feelings of isolation or depression for those who are working from home.

For example, Judd Peak, chief compliance officer at Capital Accounts in Franklin Tennessee, said early in the company’s transition to a hybrid work environment and working through compliance with COVID-19 precautions, managers started to get overwhelmed with reports and IT duties. Monitoring work-from-home agents required more auditing than in the office and put a lot of pressure on the management team when they also needed to fulfill client requests and ensure accounts with consumers were being processed, Peak explained.

That was just one topic of discussion during a session with Peak, George Buck, an ARM industry consultant, and Tonia Brown, senior compliance advisor for ARM Compliance Business Solutions, at ACA International’s 2022 Convention & Expo: Compliance in the Virtual Work-from-Home Environment.

When asked if they work at home at least part of the week, a majority of session attendees raised their hands.

According to McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey presented during the session, 58% of respondents reported having the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week, while 35% said they had the option five days a week.

A Pew Research Report also shows that among those surveyed who are currently working from home, 78% say they would like to continue working there.

However, this presents challenges for ARM industry companies when it comes to controls and auditing, training, risk management and data security—on top of determining if your employees have the proper office space, social and team-building opportunities and resources if they are struggling.

In an article in The Atlantic, reporter Arthur C. Brooks cited research from social media management firm Buffer, which showed that loneliness is the top struggle remote workers say they experience, on par with problems of collaboration and communication.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said their experience with remote work is very positive, which could tie to the fact that 93% of employees surveyed said their company trusts them to work off-site.

However, “despite overall positivity about remote work, though, people have concerns as well, with unplugging from work at the end of the day and feeling connected to coworkers being the key struggles,” according to the report from Buffer.

Buffer’s findings also show 24% of respondents said they struggle with loneliness while working from home and 21% percent said it affects their ability to stay motivated.

For one attendee at ACA’s convention session, work-from-home isolation had a significant impact on one of their best collectors. The company thought the long-time employee was doing well in the remote work environment. But unbeknownst to her manager, she had been struggling with isolation and depression, and ultimately lashed out at a consumer that had been upset on a call.

The consumer reported the issue and the collector had to be let go. Had the employee been in the office, noticing any mental struggles would have been easier to work through, the session participant said.

So how do you conduct those checkpoints with staff when they are working remotely?

Check In Often

In the Buffer State of Remote Work Survey, 77% of respondents said their company can offer support in a remote work environment by having systems and technology in place for collaboration and communication, while 75% said they rely on one-on-one meetings. Fifty-seven percent said it would help for companies to offer opportunities to socialize with coworkers.

“Connection and teammate engagement in a remote environment requires twice the effort of in-person workplaces,” said Nicole Miller, Buffer’s director of people, in an article on the survey. “Individuals and companies need to orchestrate opportunities for meeting, discussions and fun. While this happens more naturally around a physical water cooler, the digital space requires coordination and sometimes a little bit of strong encouragement to overcome the social barrier of talking to teammates you otherwise don’t have much overlap within time zone or work responsibilities.”

During the convention session, the speakers also discussed how companies can evaluate employees’ aptitude for remote work during training, for both new staff and long-time employees. Call reviews are also a good time to connect employees about their overall work and any challenges.

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) says emphasizing the importance of communication—and finding the way it works best for you and your staff (email, text message, calls, or in-person)—remembering to listen to employees—building connections and providing collaboration are all steps to stay engaged with employees and check in on their well-being.

The hybrid environment presents at least some opportunities to connect with staff in person, but even communicating online offers a simple way to dedicate time to your employees and not just their work output.

Virtual Meeting Management

For more ideas on working with your team virtually and checking in on how they are doing in a remote work environment, ACA is hosting a Hot Topic on Aug. 4 “Zoom Fatigue … Is This Really a Thing?”

Katie Borchers, owner and president at Beyond Green Solutions, will lead this webinar with best practices to lessen the mental impact of virtual video meetings and practical options for your team.

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