Today we are in a global pandemic; a national emergency; an unprecedented situation that is challenging us as a nation. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, globally and nation-wide, the entire country has shifted towards social distancing across schools, restaurants, events, and places of employment. The widespread adoption of remote-work has become the new norm for many organizations, whether ready or not.
“In a recent webinar snap poll, 91% of attending HR leaders (all in Asia/Pacific) indicated that they have implemented ‘work from home’ arrangements since the outbreak, but the biggest challenge stems from the lack of technology infrastructure and lack of comfort with new ways of working.”- Saikat Chatterjee, Senior Director, Advisory at Gartner.
As the Director of Client Success, I currently manage a mix of remote & in-office employees. Today, we will cover what I have learned over the past 5 years that will give you the confidence to not only maintain productivity, but increase production. We’ll run-through the top concerns that come with managing a remote team and the steps you can put in place to run an effective system while staying connected.
Setting Clear Expectations
Many organizations are likely feeling the same way – where do we start?
Whether you regularly have remote employees or this is completely new territory, defining the foundation for the new culture is critical. The last thing employees want is to feel lost, confused, or isolated in their altered work setting, and it is up to managers to set the tone. In order to do so, clear expectations must be outlined.
You may already be receiving and may continue to, questions such as “Is it okay for me to empty the dishwasher, fold my laundry, or mow the lawn?” Although it is challenging to navigate and be prepared for every possible situation or question that will be asked of you, one important measure to take is to simply set working hours and online times. With working from home comes flexibility, especially in the situation we’re in where employees want to maintain work-life balance as best as possible. Through my experience, it is necessary to show awareness and understanding that other household responsibilities can come into play, so long as they don’t inhibit your productivity and ability for immediate availability. The truth is, they will do it anyways.
In addition to setting working hours and online times, daily & weekly targets should also be put into place so employees are both clued in and have an understanding of what good looks like. While these can shift as time goes on, keeping targets in check through daily/weekly recaps will not only ensure goals are measured as before, but employees remain motivated and the focus is on production.
Tip: Daily recap emails to your supervisor are a great way to stay connected and ensure the efforts are in the right place.
Leading with Transparency and Trusting Your Employees
As mentioned earlier, with working remote comes flexibility. That being said, employers and managers have employees of all unique situations or home-lives, and day-by-day are working to show they are respective of the needs that may ensue. Many employees may also be parents, with children who are also home from school the next few weeks and performing online learning. Others may be caregivers for other elderly family members who need the appropriate care at this time.
No matter the situations that arise for your organization, the most effective way to manage is to lead with transparency. Be open with your team that everyone has the same expectation to be readily available as they would be in the office, but also allow them openness in return to communicate the other priorities their lifestyle demands. This will build a reciprocal level of trust and comfort that can easily diminish by working through screens and no longer face-to-face. This can easily be done with the use of a KPI dashboard, that calls out and tracks the organization’s & teams’ top focus areas.
Tip: Calendars are king! Make sure everyone has visibility into the calendars of individuals they work closely with. Teach & manage the team to use their calendar effectively so there are no questions of availability.
The expectations are in place, but another key component is missing that is often taken for granted with in-office operations – communication. In the advanced world we live in today, there are endless ways for successful telecommunication across corporations of any size.
One thing to keep in mind when trying to maintain efficiencies is to also not overwhelm your level and modes of communication. Choose the few systems that work best with the needs of your individual colleagues and the whole team, in addition to the mediums that allow information to be best articulated and understood. However, this should not influence the need to copy managers or points of contact with every email to prove one is actively working. Trust me, this will happen, and it becomes quite annoying. Whether it’s an online messaging system like Slack, using webcam meetings like Zoom, or project management sites like Asana; take advantage of the benefits that different systems provide as you navigate your remote experience.
Tip: Mandate the use of a webcam for internal conversations. This offers a deeper connection for the employee and gives you a peep into their working environment.
As organizations navigate through the next coming weeks, adaptability is crucial as projects continue to be executed, deadlines work to be met, and barriers have to be overcome. As managers we need to focus on the production and less on the trivial things that working remote tend to stir up. With technology on our side, it opens the opportunity to uphold standards of performance over simply being busy.
To ensure progression of performance continues, how will you track productivity metrics and benchmarking throughout the day?
First, keep the Key Performance Indicators to 2-3 max. These metrics should entail the most important metrics the individual delivers for the organization. Ensure the team has input into the goals and metrics, providing a level of ownership. Break these down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
Provide a channel to deliver a live look into these metrics at any given point throughout the day. This provides a sense of accountability, along with the capability to see their fellow peers’ current performance. Highlight top performers, as benchmarks to drive competition.
Manage these metrics first. Daily conversations and weekly recaps should capture the current production metrics to provide accountability and praise to the team.
TIP: Call it out during the day. A simple note to one employee a day shows that you are monitoring the daily action and that they are the most important.
Maintaining Employee Morale
Above all else, confident employees are motivated employees, and it is important to remain empathetic during a time like this. Keep track of check-ins with individual team members that focus on subject matters both work and non-work related, that way healthy relationships are not lost along the way. As humans, we all need social interaction and there is no easier way to stay on top of this than through the simple use of a webcam. Taking a few minutes a day to show you care will keep morale up as employees realize they are a vital role in the success of the organization.
Tip: Use iDashboards to create and track a Quarantine challenge. Make it not around work, but around mental and physical health. (e.g. number of steps, healthy eating, etc.)
iDashboards is here to support you and what it takes to make your organization remain successful. Let’s have a conversation.
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