In response to the uncertainties presented by Covid-19, many companies have asked their employees to work remotely. With many organizations committing to remote working, many leaders are managing their remote workers for the foreseeable future.
There is this saying- “When trust isn’t there, employees don’t perform as well remotely.”
Trusting your employees to manage their own time might be the first step, but there are other things to consider to ensure that remote performance management runs smoothly.
Common Challenges of Remote Work
For starters, managers need to understand factors that can make remote work more demanding. High-performing employees may experience declines in job performance and engagement when they begin working remotely, especially in the absence of preparation and proper training.
Challenges inherent in remote work include:
1.Lack of Person-To-Person Supervision: Both managers and their employees often express concerns about the lack of face-to-face interaction or communication.
Supervisors worry that employees will not work as hard or as efficiently as they used to.
Many employees, on the flip side, struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication.
In some cases, employees feel that remote managers are out of reach of their needs, thereby are neither helpful nor supportive in getting their work done.
2. Lack of access to information and work knowledge: Remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers.
Even getting answers to questions to what seems like a very simple task in person can feel like a large obstacle to a worker based at home.
This phenomenon extends beyond task-related work to interpersonal challenges that can emerge among remote coworkers and can create hurdles during work.
3. Social Isolation and Loneliness: The most common complaints about remote work are social isolation and loneliness. Employees missing the informal social interaction in the office can feel this way.
It is thought that extroverts/extroverts may suffer from isolation more in the short run, as compared to introverts, particularly if they do not have opportunities to connect with others in their remote work environment.
However, over a longer period of time, isolation can cause any employee, be it extrovert or introvert, to feel less “belonging” to their organization, and can even result in increased intention to leave the company.
4. Distractions at Home While Working: Work from home can be very distracting for some employees. Typically, employers ensure that their new remote workers have both dedicated workspace and adequate training before allowing them to work remotely.
Yet, in the case of a sudden transition to virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will be contending with suboptimal workspaces and unexpected work responsibilities without having proper training.
It is expected that even in normal circumstances family and home demands can impinge on remote work; managers should anticipate these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.
Also Read:- 5 Misconception about Remote Software Developers
How Managers Can Support and Keep a Track on the Performance of Their Remote Employees
As much as remote work can be full of challenges, there are also relatively quick and inexpensive things that managers can do to ease the tension of the transition.
Actions that can be applied are as following:
1. Establish structured daily check-ins: Remote managers can establish a daily call with their remote employees. If your employees work more independently from each other, or a team call, if their work is highly collaborative then this could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls.
The important feature is that the calls are regular, easy, and predictable and that they are in a way where employees know that they can consult with you and that their concerns and questions will be heard and answered.
2. Provide Several Different Technology-Related Communication Options: Nowadays email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a technology like video conferencing that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were in a face-to-face meeting or any conversation for that matter.
Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for staying connected with one another in times like these. Video calls also help in reducing the sense of isolation among teams.
Video calls can also be particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.
There are circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail.
For such situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google-meet, etc.) which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.
3. Establish “rules of engagement”: Remote work becomes more effective, efficient, and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams.
For example, “Using videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, and IM when something is urgent.”
Also, you can let your employees know the best way and time to reach you during the workday for any work-related queries or concerns.
Finally, keep an eye on communication among team members to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.
Managers should establish these “rules of engagement” with employees as soon as possible, ideally during the first online check-in meeting. The most important factor is that all employees share the same set of expectations for communication.
4. Provide Perfect Opportunities for Remote Social Interaction: One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to organize ways for employees to interact socially while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office for work from home.
One of the easiest ways to establish some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work talks.
Other options include virtual office parties with team members at the time of a videoconference.
While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experienced managers of remote workers and the workers themselves have claimed that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging in the company.
5. Offer emotional support, help, and encouragement: Especially in the context of an abrupt change in remote working, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties, problems, and concerns, and empathize with their struggles.
If a new remote employee is struggling with work but not communicating stress or anxiety, ask them how they’re doing.
Ask them if they’re having any problems while working from home. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can evoke important information that you might not otherwise hear.
Once you ask the question, be sure to listen carefully to the response and ensure that you understood correctly.
Let the employee’s stress or concerns be the primary focus of the conversation.