The novice’s guide to managing "business as usual"
So, your organization has suddenly been spurred on to adopt remote working for your employees, quickly, but you, as a manager, just aren’t sure how to make sure that your employees are being productive when not in plain sight. Sounds familiar?
As an organization with a hugely remote workforce, it is fair to say that we can claim experience in this area. We have evolved over the years to adapt to new ways of working, and here are some of those do’s and don’ts when managing your remote employees:
- Maintain contact. Your employees don’t want to feel isolated, but make sure they aren’t feeling "micro managed" with constant contact.
- Hold team calls, give everyone the opportunity to speak and share ideas and updates. Let everyone feel included in the team.
- Bear in mind, these are their home surroundings. It is a big shift, from office to home, and easy for employees to "just pop and put the washing machine on" or "take the dog for a quick walk". But that is ok! In our own experience, though we may sometimes be distracted at home, overall employees start work a little earlier and end a little later – filling in their old, unproductive, commute time. It is OK to be a bit flexible.
- Use Video! Human beings read facial expressions and body language, so don’t remove that human element.
- Have objectives/targets/KPIs in place. As a manager you will know that your employees are being productive as they achieve their predetermined metrics. They hit their targets, you know they are working without constant supervision. Win-win!
- Be personal. Nurture those personal connections, as removing them from an office environment surrounded by colleagues may leave a void of conversation which can be disconcerting.
- Communicate! It is easy to feel that you are missing out if not in the office, so make sure no one is left in the dark. Daily stand ups, group updates, team calls – all key to an inclusive remote workforce.
- Be continually checking in. Whilst we have said that you need to be inclusive and maintain regular contact, don’t be a micro manager – that can be more detrimental to productivity.
- Just leave them to it. Don’t allow isolation to set in.
- Just communicate via email. Human interactions are key to happy and productive employees.
- Assume that all is ok. Without direction, without objectives, your teams may not have any motivation or drive – so won’t be achieving their targets.
- Assume remote working is for everyone. People react differently to this new regime. Some "go wild" initially and will take a few more breaks here and there, or some may struggle to maintain focus in their home surroundings. Some people may still get up and dress for work each day. Allow a period of adjustment, promote change embracement, provide guidelines and technical support – and check in that they are doing ok with this shift.
If you are a veteran of remote working, or manage a remote team, what advice would YOU give to Managers finding themselves suddenly managing virtual teams? What advice do you wish you had been given when you had started?