Many organizations have made the quick switch to working remotely in the last couple of weeks. For many leaders, this may be their first time leading a remote team. Because of this, some leaders will have the impulsive to go into tracking and micro-management mode. In other words, they are worrying about bums in seats. In most cases, this would be a mistake.
Leaders have an opportunity during this time to demonstrate that they trust their people to rise to the occasion and follow through on their work. We have no reason to believe that our team will be less productive working at home (unless of course we aren’t providing them with the necessary tools to succeed). So, let’s let our people show us what they’ve got!
Leaders, ask yourself: If I wasn’t tracking their tasks and hours in the office, why am I tracking them now? If they didn’t have any performance issues prior to working remotely, why is it that I don’t trust them now?
I have a friend who works for a not-for-profit organization. He’s been with them close to five years and he is a solid performer. He has never had any performance issues during his employment. When he and the rest of his team were directed to begin working from home, the accounting department notified them that they would now have to track all their hours and what they were working on in 15-minute increments.
To my friend, and the rest of the employees, all that directive means is that the leadership group does not trust their employees. They’ve never asked employees to track their activities in the past, but they are now demonstrating that they believe their team can’t be trusted working from home. Doesn’t build much trust or goodwill does it?
In fact, my friend found it very stressful to have to worry about tracking all of his activities. He wasn’t sure how to describe certain things he was working on (as he is in a creative and technical field). He became stressed that his descriptions wouldn’t translate. His workplace has now added stress for staff during an already unbelievable stressful time! Oh, and did I mention that his 5-year-old daughter is also home with him during this time and he is responsible for keeping her busy?
If my friend can manage to get all of his work done on time, to the same quality standard and can do it in say 5 or 6 hours most days at home – that’s awesome. He can now focus his extra time on his daughter. Good for them! There’s a need for flexibility and trust right now. Having people work remotely is not the time or opportunity to check and see if you have been assigning enough work. It’s also not the time to purposely overload employees.
When it comes to remote work, leaders shouldn’t focus on every little activity of an employee, they simply need to focus on goals and deliverables. As long as customers/clients are taken care of, deadlines are met and quality of work is maintained, you shouldn’t care how someone gets it done at home!
We may find some employees need more support due to having kids at home or not having all of the tools and systems needed at home. Don’t track this, but support people through it.
The only people that leaders need to pay close attention to when going remote are those that were already struggling with the work or meeting deadlines when working onsite. We may find we need to check in on those employees more regularly and spend some time understanding their day to day activities.
In fact, for the most part, we don’t believe that organizations need to worry about developing super robust remote work policies or rules right now. Most organizations can demonstrate that they trust employees to get things done and follow through. If, as a leader, you notice things aren’t getting done, talk about it with the individuals who are struggling directly! Don’t punish everyone else on the team with tracking and extra rules because one person is struggling.
Focus on what’s important right now. Create guidelines and plans for those that are not meeting expectations. Leave those who are meeting requirements to keep doing what their doing as it is clearly working for them. And don’t worry about bums in seats!
Jane Helbrecht is a Partner at Acuity HR Solutions. For more content from the Acuity team visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn! We are offering access to the entire Intentional Leadership Program online (regularly $189) for a special rate of $49 with coupon code ACUITY. Visit www.intentionalleadershipprogram.com then click Enrol and select Full Program to take advantage of this special offer.