Today, the workforce is entering an entirely new ballgame.
Members of your team aren’t just trying to complete their tasks from home. They’re also dealing with the added stressors of distance-learning for their children, focusing on their family’s health, and any number of factors that can easily take their attention away from productivity.
So, how are you supposed to continue your management role in an effective and compassionate manner while simultaneously focusing on your employee’s needs and the health of your company?
To answer all these questions, we recently hosted a webinar on long-distance leadership with Laurel Farrer, an international expert on remote work. She is also the CEO of Distribute Consulting, a consulting firm that specializes in transitioning Fortune 500 companies (like Microsoft and the New York Times) to remote workplaces.
In the webinar, she highlighted 5 significant areas that organization leaders should focus on when managing remotely, especially during these challenging times. We outline them below:
1. Trust: Prioritize Accomplishment Over Activity
On average, remote workers work 2 to 4 hours more than office workers. But still, one of the most difficult adjustments that team leaders have to make is tracking productivity remotely. After all, if you can’t see your employees working, how do you know if they are?
Rather than tracking hours on a time clock, track results instead.
Set clear expectations like OKRs and KPIs that everyone understands. Make sure to also value all types of productivity, not just metric-based goals. For example, encourage your team to spend time fostering new ideas as part of their workweek and celebrate them as an accomplishment.
2. Autonomy: Don’t Micromanage!
No one likes to be micromanaged. But as a leader in the world of remote employment, it’s really easy to do.
Instead, you should be extra aware of what your employees need to do their job without your help. Are they adequately prepared to self-manage? Do they have access to the right resources or to you if you have additional questions? Do they feel motivated themselves without your help?
Another great way to build autonomy in your team is to nurture their soft skills by using online learning platforms, like Skillingo. This will encourage your employees to think critically and find the internal motivation to stay productive during these difficult times.
Just remember: while allowing them to control, don’t completely abandon them. Your job is still to keep them motivated!
3. Communication: Don’t Just Say Good Job.
Long gone are the days of non-verbal cues or environmental awareness when meeting with your employees. And while video chats are helpful, disseminating information just isn’t the same as it used to be.
We need to fill those gaps with more details and more empathy. When you’re discussing projects or objectives, make sure to provide extra information and double check for potential misinterpretations. Keep an eye on whether your employees asking too few or too many questions. This could mean they are feeling abandoned and don’t have enough information to complete their task successfully.
Additionally, elaborate on feedback and praise — this is critical for your team to understand their wins and areas of improvement.
But here’s a friendly reminder: while communication is valuable, remember that Zoom and Slack notification fatigue is real. Make sure to keep communication channels open within reason and designate one tool to be your team’s virtual workspace.
4. Culture: Keep Instilling Your Core Values.
Your team isn’t unique because of the perks offered by your company or the way you all handle certain workplace tasks – it’s different because of the personality that each individual brings to the table.
So how do we convert culture from being in-person to virtual? Understand first that employees stay connected because of your company’s core values and participating in activities that exercise these core values. This shouldn’t change when working remotely.
For example, if your core value is “innovation,” team leaders can set up virtual brainstorms open to the entire company around product development or new creative marketing ideas. This will ensure your employees avoid the feeling of isolation and stay engaged.
5. Compliance: Don’t Sleep On Your Policies.
It’s not everyone’s favorite topic, but now more than ever, compliance should be playing a major role in your managerial mindset. Just because you’re not all together in an office doesn’t mean you can forget about OSHA, HIPAA, or any other important guidelines.
If you haven’t already, create a remote company policy that outlines clear expectations and protects each employee, manager, and the company as a whole. Want to get started? Here is a free remote policy template to download from Distribute Consulting.
Additionally, ensure you’re consistently checking in with your employees whether it’s through surveys or open forums. Are they following the rules of all your company policies, including information security, office health and safety, and more? You never know unless you ask.