Being a manager is hard enough without the added complexities of remote work. When your team works remotely, you must have the right tools and temperament to manage them without micromanaging them. In the past, managers and bosses have largely used attendance to monitor productivity. But, you can’t always do that when your employees are working from home or somewhere else.
Sure, you can look at their Slack of Teams statuses to ensure they’re online, but the past few years have shown us that method isn’t effective. Punishing employees for their lights going off while working at their desks can (and probably will) backfire. Instead of making your employees feel like Big Brother is monitoring them, you can give them a little more freedom by showing them you trust them. Here are a few tips and best practices to help you monitor remote teams:
Understand the Various Challenges
Working from home comes with an entirely new set of challenges for your employees. While they’re no longer distracted by the everyday conversations of their coworkers, your remote team members are distracted by things at home, such as pets, children, chores, and so forth. Additionally, working from home can lead to burnout and lower employee morale and engagement.
Remember, your employees are no longer meeting face to face, which is vital to their mental health. Instead, they spend at least eight hours a day talking to themselves, pets, or nobody at all. Even though there are tools to encourage and facilitate employee engagement through video chats and direct messaging, your employees might still be faced with bottlenecks or communication issues.
These challenges are common among remote workers, but many managers and employees can still be productive despite them. It’s up to you to find the best solutions, whether that means giving employees longer lunch breaks to take care of household tasks and personal activities like attending online vet appointments, taking their children to school and picking them up, or running out for coffee, etc.
Every team should have productivity standards focused on goals. What’s more important: your employees completing deadline-based tasks or how many hours they sit at the computer? You might require your employees to be available for customers or clients during business hours. But that doesn’t mean you should watch their online statuses. Instead, you should define what productivity means. If your employees are completing their tasks, stop worrying about whether they’re online — they probably are, or else they couldn’t do their work.
If you don’t have productivity standards and goals, you may feel like micromanaging your employees is the only way to know whether they’re truly working. Instead, set goals every day to ensure they accomplish everything they need to do. For example, an IT technician may have a productivity goal of resolving ten tickets a day.
Additionally, you should have methods of tracking these goals to ensure your employees are getting their work done. For example, you can use project management software that allows employees to self-report their time and upload projects as they complete them, allowing you to ensure they’re finishing their work without sending them Slack messages throughout the day.
Set Aside Time for Interaction
Most companies experience a breakdown in communication when their employees go remote. Instead of letting everyone work in a silo, your team must work together towards a common goal. If they’re unsure what everyone else is doing or can’t get the help they need, the process will quickly break down.
Consider having a stand-up meeting every day where everyone goes over their tasks for the day and how they relate to the larger project. Ensuring everyone is on the same page can allow them to ask any questions they have and ensure the project is moving along smoothly.
In addition to work-related communication, you should encourage social interactions similar to water cooler conversions employees might have at the office. This type of communication can help them feel more connected with their coworkers and various tasks. Remember, many remote workers feel isolated socially because they have no one to talk to throughout the day. Encouraging them to talk to one another throughout the day can help keep morale up.
How often you follow up with employees will vary depending on the type of work they’re doing. However, no employee wants to be bombarded with messages or requests for phone calls when they’re trying to finish a project. That said, one-on-one calls between managers and employees can allow both parties to check in with one another. During these calls, you can answer their questions and ensure they aren’t facing any roadblocks. Additionally, while managing remote teams, these chats will allow your employees to voice any concerns they have about their work without involving their coworkers.
Be Strict When Necessary
It’s a common misconception that remote workers grab their favorite blankets and take a nap during working hours. Instead, they’re probably at their desks doing the same things they’d be doing in an office. However, some employees might take advantage of the situation. While you shouldn’t monitor your employees’ screens because it shows you don’t trust them, you can set clear expectations.
For example, if you’re unsure whether someone is working, you can ask team members to submit a report detailing what they worked on at the end of each day. Of course, some employees may lie, but with project management software, you can monitor their work activities to ensure their reports match up with the information in the system.
Trust Your Employees
Many remote workers feel like their managers don’t trust them. They may check in on them throughout the day via direct messages or ask them where they’ve been if they see their activity lights turned off. If you can’t trust the people who work for you to accomplish tasks, you shouldn’t hire them. Meanwhile, if you don’t trust any of your employees, it’s possible you’re the problem.
Trusting remote employees can be difficult if you’re used to a traditional office environment where you can see them. But if you don’t trust them, it might have something to do with either your hiring process or management style.
Remote work gives your employees flexibility. They’re no longer stuck in traffic or rushed in the morning, allowing them to accomplish more personal tasks throughout the day. This also means that while managing remote teams, you need to be more flexible. Of course, you should expect your employees to be at work when they say they are, but if an employee needs to run a personal errand, they should be able to. You shouldn’t care where the work is done or when as long as it’s completed by the deadline. As long as your employees are meeting their goals, there’s no reason not to trust them.