Since the pandemic, remote working arrangements have been more common than ever. While many individuals have lauded the flexibility and convenience of remote work, it can be difficult for a team manager to engage team members and maintain oversight of their productivity. Here are some tips on how managers can evolve their approach to suit the hybrid workplace.
Provide the Right Tools
Before you can expect your team members to perform well in a remote work setting, you need to set them up with the required technology and tools. While most people have smartphones, not everyone has a dedicated computer that they can use at home or the necessary equipment such as webcams and microphones or headsets. Consider offering rebates for employees who need assistance purchasing the required equipment.
Similarly, if you need your team members to perform specific tasks like keeping a record of their hours, be sure to provide them with the relevant tools—in this case, a time tracker app. Most apps and software designed for remote workers now have enterprise editions for businesses, so you can purchase multiple user licenses and distribute them to your employees. A standardized platform allows for better comparison and collaboration.
Some team members may need additional training to function effectively in the hybrid work environment. Remember that certain communities and demographics may not have had easy access to computers. So, be mindful that remote work may be less comfortable and productive for some people. Instead of penalizing employees for being slow, consider a co-pay or sponsorship arrangement to help them get additional skills training.
Instead of waiting for struggling team members to make mistakes, be proactive in soliciting feedback from your employees about their challenges and concerns. Aside from asking them directly, there are other ways to find out if your team members need support. One way is to observe the standard of their work. Are they consistently meeting deadlines and is their work to the quality that is expected? If not, they may need additional assistance.
Each time you communicate with your team, make it clear that you are there to facilitate their productivity. Try to schedule regular team meetings at least once a week to check in with your team. During the meetings, ask your team members what they are happy and unhappy about. Let each participant talk about their tasks for the week and the steps that you or fellow team members can take to help them accomplish these tasks.
Two-way dialogue allows your team members to be able to voice their thoughts and feel invested in the process. To encourage them to speak freely, you need to demonstrate empathy and understanding. Other than group meetings, also schedule periodic one-on-one meetings so that you can have more personal, confidential conversations. Always be considerate when you schedule meetings with people from different time zones.
Focus on the Outcome
As a manager, it can be hard to hand over the reins to your remote employees and trust that they will do the right thing. However, micromanaging is impractical in a hybrid work environment and can hinder more than help. The best way to evaluate if your team members are performing well in their jobs is to turn your attention to the outcomes. Focus on daily or weekly goals. If these goals are being met, why concern yourself with the process?
You must understand that remote work comes with its pros and cons. While you may have to accept your employees doing their work at unorthodox hours, you also gain access to a deep pool of talent that do not want conventional 9-to-5 jobs. As long as your day-to-day requirements are adequately met, allowing your team members the independence to complete tasks in their own time can actually be more productive.
That said, you need to set some ground rules to provide a clear structure to keep your team focused. For instance, you can lay out a framework marking the key steps for each project. You can also indicate check-in points where assignments must be submitted for approval before moving forward. Try to achieve a fine balance between rules and flexibility. Emphasize the who, what, and when, and let your team members take care of the how.
See Each Person
Remote work arrangements can leave team members feeling isolated and disconnected from the team. Aside from communicating with your employees regularly, it can help to spend a little time getting to know them better as individuals. Take a few minutes each meeting to make non-work-related small talk and ask after their personal lives. You can even invite them to introduce their spouses, children, or pets on camera.
The hybrid work landscape comes with its challenges but it also enables teams to achieve new levels of flexibility and efficiency. As a team leader, your job is to provide the necessary structure and support to allow your team members to perform and grow. By offering the right tools, a listening ear, trust, and connection, you can create a hybrid work environment that is conducive to employee happiness, productivity, and success.