On 22 September 2021, the prime minister announced that offices in Malaysia with fully vaccinated employees could operate with 100% capacity. Nevertheless, some companies are still allowing their employees to work remotely or adopting a hybrid work mode.
Isn’t it going to be a huge loss for the company?
How could they be so sure that the employees do their job well?
How am I going to achieve the target when I can’t see what they do?
If you’re a business owner or managing a remote team, those questions may appear on your mind. It’s normal and understandable to think that way. After all, the business must go on because there are bills, paychecks, loans to pay, etc.
Remote working may not be suitable for all business models. But if it’s possible for you, adapting this work mode shows that you’re putting your employees’ health and safety first, which creates a feeling of being taken care of. And that leads to loyalty.
So, take a deep breath. Employees can still be productive and achieve their targets even when working from home.
Still worried? These 6 tips will help you to manage remote employees effectively:
1. Avoid micromanaging, do daily or weekly check-in instead
A friend told me that she had a check-in list to fill in what she did every hour.
Another friend, who has resumed working in the office, resigned because her boss would personally sit beside the employees for a few minutes to see if they were doing the job correctly.
Overseeing (past or current) remote employees doesn’t mean that you have to micromanage them. Micromanaging does more harm than increasing productivity. It causes stress and pressure to the employees and shows a lack of trust from the management.
Instead of micromanaging, you can set a specific day, time and method to interact with the team. For example, you can schedule a weekly video call meeting where members can share what they’ve been doing, the problems they’re facing or any updates.
If you’re managing many projects, some people may need to discuss them with you privately. Set a time when they can book a slot to have a meeting with you. For example, let them know that you’re free for discussion every 4-5 pm daily.
2. Trust your employees
Managing remote employees equal to trusting them. Believe me; you’re not the only one who’s worried that the business will go bust, your employees too, because they also need to survive.
From my work from home experience, I strive to complete my task and maintain the quality of my work because I value my job (and I like the company where I’m working), plus I have responsibilities to pay.
To ensure employees deliver the same quality of work as if they were in the office, create a work-from-home guideline. For example, they must use a secured Wi-Fi, “EOD” means by 5 pm and tasks labelled as “urgent” are expected to be delivered within 1 hour.
3. Focus on the results, not process
Everyone has different work from home experience. Some have small children; some live alone, some may need to take care of their family members. To manage your remote team, you need to be flexible with their routines.
For example, if your team always starts the day with a 10 am quick check-in, you may want to shift it to another time. Create a poll to know when is best to conduct the activity.
“As a manager, you have to stop paying attention to the process and pay more attention to what things are getting done. Just talk to your team about what you want them to accomplish,” says Brian Kropp, Distinguished Vice President, Research, Gartner.
If someone has to send his children to school in the morning, starts working at 11 am and still hits the target, why sweat the small stuff?
4. Encourage work-life balance
Believe it or not, some people tend to work more than 8 hours a day when working from home compared to the office, as one colleague of mine.
It’s not because she’s unable to manage her time well, but being stuck at home means she has 24/7 access to her laptop, which encourages her to finish the task (although there’s still time until the deadline).
This is especially true for those who work at a multinational company with international teams. An email from another team can pop up after working hours. A glance at the notification leads to opening the email, then “oh, this will be fast, let me do it now”.
As a leader, encouraging work-life balance leads to happier and healthier employees. Furthermore, it will increase productivity, improve customer service, lower levels of sickness or absence and reduce staff turnover.
5. Track the progress of your employees
With the software, you’ll be able to see what’s on the plate for each employee, if they’ve started with the project or are stuck at it, the amount of time they’ve spent to complete the project and many more.
If you have a tight budget and cannot afford project management software, you can do it manually but keep it simple.
“Have your employees give you a work schedule, along with tasks they are expected to accomplish within a given time. This will calm your fears and give your team the structure they need to fulfil their role,” suggests Angela Civitella, a certified business leadership coach.
6. Reach out and get to know how they cope with the pandemic
People react differently to the pandemic and new work mode. Some employees feel lonely, depressed, challenged to concentrate on working from home or face financial problems.
Besides regular check-in, remember to ask your remote employees and their family’s well-being and if there’s anything that you can do to help.
By demonstrating empathy and helping them solve their problems, employees will have fewer things to worry about and fully concentrate on their job. On top of that, it will boost their morale and increase loyalty to the company.
I hope these tips to manage your remote employees help. As Malaysia starts to open up and ease most restrictions, let’s keep looking forward to brighter days!