During the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce made an unprecedented shift to remote work. And while some employees have started heading back to the office, many have not. In 2023, 28.2% of full-time employees work from home part of the time. About 12.7% are fully remote.
Even though remote work has become more popular across industries, some employers are coaxing reluctant employees to return to in-person work. Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, even bribed his employees to come back — despite claiming he himself doesn’t work well in an office.
Why the push to come back to the office? Some employers maintain that employees are less productive when they work remotely. But in many cases, the performance managers are the ones who have failed to adapt to a remote model. Here are a few ways to develop a remote performance management strategy that works.
How do you gauge employee productivity? Many managers have historically relied on performance indicators they could see: if an employee was constantly typing or always staying late, that meant they were among the most productive in the office.
As it turns out, neither of these are great ways to measure productivity. Employees who seem busy aren’t always, and if someone is staying late, they might just have poor time-management skills.
But if your performance managers don’t know any other way to monitor employees, they might resort to micromanagement and other counterproductive methods.
The solution? Shifting the focus to employee output. Managers and team members should have a set of agreed-upon objectives for each workday, project, etc. As long as the employees are routinely meeting objectives, there’s no need to scrutinize their process.
As a bonus, a strategy like this builds trust — it shows your employees that you trust them enough to let them manage their own time.
Of course, that’s not to say that performance managers shouldn’t check in with their teams. When you have a remote workforce, your employees will generally benefit from more frequent feedback (as long as that feedback doesn’t reach the level of micromanagement).
For example, if an employee’s work week is usually divided into three separate projects, you might suggest that the performance manager briefly check in with the employee after each one. This check-in doesn’t even need to happen in real time — it might be enough to send an email outlining what the employee did well and what could be improved on the next project.
Note that this kind of feedback shouldn’t replace formal performance reviews. If you’re working remotely with no feedback, it’s easy to feel as though you’re working in a vacuum. Frequent feedback is simply a way to keep employees feeling engaged and connected to the company and its mission.
Frequent feedback from management is one way to help your team feel a little more connected. However, it primarily connects lower-level employees to management — it doesn’t necessarily help the members of your team stay connected to one another.
Depending on your industry and your team’s style of work, there are a few different ways you can help everyone feel connected:
The simple act of planning some of these events and strategies can be a way for your team members to bond (or at least get to know one another better).
Working remotely has its perks. However, some remote employees have trouble maintaining a work-life balance. Some also feel like they need to constantly be on-call in order to seem productive.
This mindset can be stressful, and it’s also a quick ticket to burnout. To avoid both of those things, encourage your employees to set clear boundaries. For instance, you might suggest that they not open or respond to work emails after the end of the business day.
Of course, this suggestion only works if you use a top-down approach. Ask your performance managers to set boundaries for themselves and those they supervise. Your team will feel appreciated, and they’ll have an easier time recharging once they’re off the clock.
To some people, working remotely seems natural. For others, it can be an adjustment. When you create a document where employees can add their own tips and suggestions for successfully working remotely, you let everyone benefit from the team’s collective wisdom.
Your performance manager doesn’t have to have especially great tech skills to do this. It can be as simple as setting up a Google doc that everyone can edit. Your team can feel free to share tips across a wide range of areas:
Your managers might find they learn a thing or two as well!
You’ll likely find that your team is more efficient if you set out clear guidelines and expectations.
For instance, you might tell your employees that email is fine for asking general questions, but if something is urgent, they need to make a phone call. If your employees handle sensitive data, make sure you have clear rules and procedures for protecting that information, too.
Switching to remote work creates challenges for team members and management. However, a strong performance manager can discover the root of an issue and adapt accordingly. When managers accept that remote work is here to stay, they’ll be able to focus on creating management strategies that support happy, productive employees.
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