The closer we get to 2021, the more it looks like it will resemble 2020. At least the first few months, at any rate. What that means for businesses is that work will remain remote. For managers, this presents a few challenges, particularly if you’re still struggling with remote performance management.
The truth is that managing remote teams can be pretty challenging. The difficulty increases as stress from enforced seclusion grows. By this point, though, employees should have a good grasp of the basics, and are probably no longer struggling with things like not having any face-to-face supervision or being unable to get access to critical information. Some of them may have gotten so comfortable with the work-at-home situation that they’ve begun doing their own thing.
With the right steps, you can manage performance, wrangle your team into shape, and move the organization forward. In this post, we’ll discuss a few tips and tricks for managers.
Enforce Tool Use
By this point, your employees have probably gotten pretty comfortable with the tools you’re using, like Trello and Slack. Chances are also good that they have started exploring other tools out there, and perhaps even started using those on their own. There’s a wide world of business-focused software, from Google Meet to Microsoft Teams, and everything in between.
The challenge with employees going off on their own is that it can lead to information fragmentation, miscommunication, and other hurdles. So, if you notice that team members are using unsanctioned software, put the kibosh on it. Alternatively, you can dig into the software yourself, determine what it offers, and perhaps adopt it for the entire team.
Keep Your Check-Ins Daily
Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes, and that applies to check-ins as much as it does to anything else. As you and your team become more familiar (and more comfortable) with remote work, there’s a tendency to space your check-ins farther and farther apart. What was once a daily thing becomes every three days, then once a week, and before you know it, you’re checking in once every two weeks and no one knows what’s going on.
Don’t let that happen to your team. Stick to daily check-ins. This may be individual calls, or it could be a team check-in, depending on what fits your needs best. By sticking to the daily format, you ensure everyone is on the same page, all the time, and you avoid problems that crop up with less frequent interaction.
Maintain Your Rules but Be Flexible
As with check-ins, there’s a tendency to let rules slide as you grow more comfortable with remote work. And there’s nothing wrong with that – to an extent. Understand that many of the rules you adopted when first going remote, such as using instant messaging for urgent communications, but video conferencing for check-ins and less important meetings, may no longer fit your needs.
Be flexible. Take stock of your rules and then make adjustments where necessary so that you eliminate those that are now creating bottlenecks or stifling performance while adopting new ones that address emerging problems that crop up over time. With a flexible attitude toward rules, but also the realization that most of them are in place for good reason and provide plenty of utility, you’ll be able to roll with the punches while ensuring that your team members have access to the information they need, that sharing is where it needs to be, and that projects are being completed on time.
Watch for Signs of Burnout
One thing we have learned from the pandemic is that when we don’t have a firm dividing line between our personal and professional lives, many of us become workaholics. While there is nothing wrong with paying a little extra attention to work matters when there’s a big project, it shouldn’t become the norm. Being “always-on” leads to burnout, which will ultimately harm both the employee and the organization.
It is your job to be on the alert for signs of impending burnout, as well as on employee behavior. For instance, if you know that one team member tends to be available during what would normally be considered off-time, that should be considered a red flag. If you notice a team member turning in work before dawn or late at night, that may also be a sign of potential trouble.
Of course, you do have to balance the wariness of burnout with the realization that employees working from home should be able to set a schedule that fits their needs. Maybe that 5 AM turn-in is because they have something that they have to do later that day. Perhaps that employee who works after dark does so because their home isn’t conducive to work before that point. Keep an eye on these situations, but also maintain an open mind.
Keep Social Time a Priority
Virtual happy hours, employee show and tell, and the like have become the norm since the pandemic hit. However, for some organizations, the focus on social interaction has slipped as the situation has worn on. Understand that this can deprive your employees of an essential outlet and vital social support.
Take pains to keep social time going and make it a priority. There’s a good chance that you’ve probably run through most of your ideas for virtual events, so get creative and come up with more. Solicit ideas from the team, or revisit those that were a lot of fun in the past. Without social support, it becomes very easy for employees to disengage, and then performance drops. By being vigilant, you can help prevent that from happening.
While the pandemic continues to drag on, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of vaccines. There is no clear end in sight, but there is at least hope that one day soon, most of us will be once more working together and the world will become something like its old self.