While many employees always fantasized about working from home, the COVID pandemic, although unfortunate, turned these thoughts into reality. In June of 2020, 70% of workers in the United States were working from home. Since then the rate has gone down, but a new Gallup poll shows that 58% of workers are still virtual as of January 2021. Due to this exodus to the home office, many workers have had to make adjustments. Yet remote management in the virtual workplace has been all but ignored.
As more and more employers transition to a fully remote workspace to cut overhead and reduce the incidence of workplace-based COVID infection, remote management has become all the more important for companies and employers switching to permanent remote work. Though the water cooler talk, business models, and supervision principles may have changed, employers shouldn’t fret. Adaptation has always been a part of the business. By making changes to your business model, you can ensure a happy, productive workforce even if it’s your first foray into the remote realm. Here’s how to do it.
Performance Management for Remote Workers: The Basics
Performance management is a difficult issue regardless of whether you’re onsite or remote, but both adhere to the same ideals. You have some employees that need no supervision whatsoever. They’re eager to do whatever needs doing, and they don’t complain about it. Conversely, you might have talented (or entry-level) employees that need a little burst of “inspiration” from time to time. You need to give them one assignment after the next because if you don’t, their time is spent idling.
In a remote workplace, dealing with both types of employees requires a keen attention to detail and a clear channel of communication. For the go-getter, you need to praise their performance, whether through a personal message or email, or by announcing their achievements to the entire team.
Your other workers require transparency. They need clear expectations and a list of work that needs to be done. When they’re near the end of the list, contact them. Ask them how they’re doing, and if they feel like they’re taxed or underutilized. By doing so, you can create a regimen that revolves around the amount of work they can do without causing undue stress.
Performance remote management is never an easy task. But by doing the aforementioned tasks, you can bring yourself one step closer to success.
1. Understanding the Differences Between Onsite and Remote Management and How to Curtail Micromanagement
As mentioned above, the differences between onsite and remote management are ever apparent. Micromanagers, in particular, will have a tough time adjusting to such a work arrangement. But that’s entirely how you set a precedent for change. If you aren’t convinced, research shows that one in three employees that resign do so because of micromanagement. You don’t want to lose your best employees because you bombarded them with message after message or constant emails because you can’t do so in person. Again, the idea is adaptation.
Role delegation is among the greatest practices you can employ in remote management. You dole out the objectives and projects you want to be done, check in every so often, and the work gets done. And while it isn’t always this simple and you’ll hit snags across the way, you get to put your faith in one thing: trust. You hired your staff to do a job. If they weren’t up to your standards, you likely wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Instead of micromanaging, adopt the remote work idea of believing in your employees and focusing on a Results Only Work Environment, a workplace strategy where employees are evaluated based on their work output instead of the time they spend working. Your micromanagement tendencies may creep up every so often, but if you trust your employees and focus on the benefits of a ROWE management philosophy, you can curtail the urge. The result is a more productive workforce and the ability for you to work on other tasks.
2. Getting Your Team Online and Teaching About a Proper Remote Workspace
Not every business model has a contingency plan for permanent remote work. In many facets, this is uncharted territory. To have a successful team, however, you’re going to have to put your resources into making sure everyone’s online setup is up to standard. This doesn’t necessarily mean issuing a stipend for laptops and other expensive gear. It’s more attune to ensuring that everyone has everything they need to be successful in the remote workplace.
Remote management requires that every person’s equipment is tantamount to efficiency. This means that a few bucks put toward fiber optic internet as opposed to cable internet is a well-spent expense. Furthermore, creating a list of budget software and programs that will get the job done (as opposed to more expensive alternatives) and sending it out to your employees is another great idea. You might also even include that all of these items are tax-deductible, increasing trust between you and your subordinates.
Illustrating the Importance of a Proper Office
Another important aspect of taking your team permanently remote is making sure that they have an office or workspace that allows them to reach their full potential. Many novice remote workers will take to working in bed or on the sofa simply because they can. For a while, this is no big deal. But over time, you must reiterate that remote work isn’t a forum for pajamas and never getting out of bed.
Subtlety is the key here. You can’t be overbearing. You simply have to state the importance of a proper workstation, and how it can improve the productivity and overall morale of your remote workers. To some degree, this will work itself out on its own. When a bedroom doubles as a workplace, the mind suffers. Your brain can’t process why the place where you work is also the place where you sleep. This can lead to burnout, insomnia, and a slew of other problems.
That’s just what you’re trying to avoid in remote management. By illustrating the importance of a proper home office, you not only lift the morale of your workforce, but you teach them good habits in the process.
3. Schedule Some One-on-Ones
It’s not like Jordan vs. Bird. Or Curry vs. Lebron for the younger generation. There’s no rivalry in “sitting down” one-on-one with your remote employees. In fact, you should encourage the exchange. When you’re one-on-one with your employees, you can get to know them just as you would in an office setting. To some degree, the lack of human contact that you’d normally receive in an onsite office can encourage results and open discussion.
During your one-on-one meeting, you can certainly discuss business, but keep it light-hearted and ask how your employee is doing. Since the COVID pandemic, your employee might be fine, yet their personal life — like a spouse getting laid off or kids learning from home — could have turned their world upside down. Empathy is key to remote management, and if you get to know your employees on an individual basis, you’ll not only get better results — you’ll gain their respect.
4. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be the person who brings joy, humility, and fun, even as you strive to reach difficult goals and make your difference.Brendon Burchard, New York Best Times Author and Life Coach
When results are on your shoulders, it’s difficult to take your mind off the task. You may feel stressed, vulnerable, and overwhelmed all at once. But the ability to overcome this is the hallmark of a remarkable manager.
So how do you do it? By not taking yourself too seriously. Be the person to crack jokes in the virtual office. Organize an after-hours virtual happy hour. Do whatever you can to lighten the mood, even if an important project has you on edge.
No matter what you think, your employees look up to you. They want your guidance, and they want to see how you handle difficult situations. By not taking yourself too seriously, you can slice through the doubt, inspire your workers, and get down to business when the time comes.
5. Combine Expectation With Flexibility
Your employees aren’t the only ones who’ve dreamed about working from home. You probably always wanted to, but the logistics and situations might have seemed too difficult (or impossible) to overcome. But now that it’s a reality, you can enjoy the work-life balance and flexibility that only remote work can bring. As a successful manager, you have to pair this with expectations.
That’s a tall order by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it goes back to trust. If you’re transparent and outline the expectations you have for your workers, the flexibility should follow naturally. Get the work done, and you’re free to do whatever you want. Instill this idea in your employees, and you just might find that you have an absolute workhorse behind you.
Keep in mind that expectations should be realistic. You can’t pour two months’ worth of work on an employee and say, “Hey, once you’re done, you don’t have to report in until I say so.” It has to be tangible. The work has to have measurements, and it has to be attainable.
The best idea here is to live and manage to the ideals of the old adage: “You don’t live to work. You work to live.” By giving freedom to employees that get work done on time or ahead of schedule, your remote management tactics will undoubtedly work to your advantage.
Remote Management Is the Result of Trial and Error
Remote management isn’t an easy task by any means. It requires constant adaptation, attention to detail, and a number of other managerial tactics. But at the end of the day, your role isn’t to be a micromanager or have your employees love you. It’s to get the job done. How you approach the task is left up to you, but with these tips, some empathy, and a dedication to transforming yourself from an onsite manager to a remote manager, you should see some success.
Do you have any remote management tips? How have you enabled workers to adjust to the virtual world? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!