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How managers can get visibility when their teams are remote

Header image of black binocular for article on visibility of remote teams

In just a few short weeks our per­son­al and work­ing lives have been pro­found­ly affect­ed by the Coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. For most of us, the biggest change to our rou­tine is that, for the first time, most peo­ple who can, are now work­ing from home. For some, that’s a fun­da­men­tal change that will take some time to adjust to. For many man­agers and HR peo­ple, man­ag­ing remote work­ers is con­sid­ered unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry. In nor­mal cir­cum­stances, many man­agers avoid let­ting their employ­ees work from home because they lack vis­i­bil­i­ty. Accord­ing to the CEO of Work Wise, many man­agers think, If I can’t see, how do I know that you’re working?” 

Work­ing from home also brings up anx­i­eties in employ­ees. A sur­vey by O2 revealed that many employ­ees believe their per­for­mance is mea­sured by the time they spend in the office rather than what they deliv­er. Often, they feel that they need to be vis­i­ble to their employ­er, oth­er­wise their com­mit­ment may be questioned. 

But with more peo­ple work­ing from home, this atti­tude needs to change. As well as mak­ing sure life is eas­i­er for employ­ees, a key issue many man­agers face is vis­i­bil­i­ty of per­for­mance whilst their teams are dis­persed. How­ev­er, there are plen­ty of things man­agers can do to solve this issue. The first thing you need to do is to under­stand that — espe­cial­ly in a remote work­ing cul­ture — vis­i­bil­i­ty should be mea­sured by employ­ee out­put rather than input. The sec­ond thing is, you need to have reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion across your team to replace the ongo­ing ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion you would oth­er­wise have in the office. 

Reg­u­lar communication

One of the best ways to have vis­i­bil­i­ty when your employ­ees are remote, is by com­mu­ni­cat­ing reg­u­lar­ly. Reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion can help give employ­ees vis­i­bil­i­ty of what is expect­ed of them, which can help boost pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. For exam­ple, a Stan­ford 2‑year-long study found that remote work­ers at a large Chi­nese com­pa­ny were much more pro­duc­tive when they telecom­mu­ni­cat­ed. Their out­put was the equiv­a­lent of work­ing a whole extra day. Reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion can take form in the fol­low­ing ways: 

Vir­tu­al face-to-face” meetings

For­mal­is­ing online team meet­ings and treat­ing them as seri­ous­ly as you would face-to-face meet­ings is a great start. If you do week­ly sta­tus meet­ings with your team, con­sid­er hold­ing them more often and leav­ing extra space at the end for ques­tions and con­cerns. For exam­ple, some of the teams at Clear Review have a dai­ly vir­tu­al face-to-face stand up where we dis­cuss our key pri­or­i­ties and tasks that day. The vis­i­bil­i­ty here is not just for the man­ag­er, but for the rest of the team so we can effec­tive­ly col­lab­o­rate where cer­tain tasks over­lap or pri­ori­tise oth­er tasks. 

Catch-ups and check-ins

Vis­i­bil­i­ty isn’t just about hav­ing clar­i­ty on what work is being done. It’s also about a man­ag­er hav­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty on employ­ee well­be­ing and any sup­port they might need. Being dis­tant from oth­er mem­bers of the team can often make you feel iso­lat­ed which can impact morale and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. It’s impor­tant that man­agers have reg­u­lar catch-ups and check-ins where they can dis­cuss any issues that their employ­ee is fac­ing. Tools like Clear Review can help you for­malise check-ins by enabling you to have mul­ti­ple types of con­ver­sa­tions. Con­ver­sa­tions can include devel­op­ment con­ver­sa­tions, a reg­u­lar check-in, or a well­be­ing con­ver­sa­tion — what­ev­er you want. This can help give you vis­i­bil­i­ty on your remote employ­ees so you can make sure that they are hap­py at work — in every sense — and give them the sup­port they need. 

Dis­cussing wins, insights, and chal­lenges in your role

Anoth­er way in which you can increase vis­i­bil­i­ty in your team is by dis­cussing wins, insights or chal­lenges of the week. This is a great way to share what you’ve learnt from your work. Shar­ing some­thing you’ve found chal­leng­ing could also be a great way for your col­leagues to share their insight with you on how to deal with such chal­lenges. If those chal­lenges keep com­ing up, it could be a good way for you to explore some per­son­al devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties with your employee.

Shout­ing out about the good things that have hap­pened also gives the rest of the team vis­i­bil­i­ty on the pos­i­tives. In the office, you’ll prob­a­bly cel­e­brate lit­tle wins, but this should also con­tin­ue when you’re work­ing from home. At Clear Review, we work from home some days of the week. And as part of our cul­ture, we have a com­pa­ny-wide Week­end wind-down” where we share our high­lights and low­lights of the week. 

Find out how Clear Review can sup­port your remote work­ers with a free trial:

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Vis­i­bil­i­ty through clear deliv­er­ables and goals

Vis­i­bil­i­ty shouldn’t be about the input; it should be about what’s being deliv­ered. Often man­agers think how long you spend at your desk” is a mea­sure of your per­for­mance, when instead there should be a focus on out­put. When it comes to work­ing from home, you need to make sure that deliv­er­ables are clear to your employees.

Clear and well-con­struct­ed goals

Clear goals which are aligned to the com­pa­ny, give man­agers and employ­ees vis­i­bil­i­ty on what needs to be done. This is essen­tial in ensur­ing that the team pri­ori­tis­es cor­rect­ly and knows what they need to focus on. Do your team mem­bers all have clear goals for the next week, month and quar­ter? Are the goals clear and mea­sur­able? In John Doerr’s excel­lent book Mea­sure What Mat­ters”, we learn that lack of align­ment is the num­ber one obsta­cle between strat­e­gy and exe­cu­tion”. Well-writ­ten goals, clear­ly aligned to your organization’s strate­gic objec­tives, help your team to under­stand how they con­tribute to the big picture.

Track­ing progress of tasks

With remote work­ing, you’re no longer in the office where you can just turn around to your employ­ee and ask for an update on the next email cam­paign. You’ll need an alter­na­tive, more struc­tured, and trans­par­ent way to track progress to help give you vis­i­bil­i­ty on each employ­ees’ tasks. You might want to use a project man­age­ment tool to help you with that. Tools like Trel­lo and Asana are a great way to help track progress of spe­cif­ic tasks if you want a quick overview of what’s hap­pen­ing in your team.

Con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment tools like Clear Review can also give you vis­i­bil­i­ty on the progress of goals for each employ­ee, whether they are OKRs, team goals, agile goals or per­son­al devel­op­ment goals. Assum­ing you’ve set these clear goals, your reg­u­lar meet­ings with your team — whether in per­son or dig­i­tal­ly — could give focus to that con­ver­sa­tion too. A meet­ing could be as sim­ple as Give me the sta­tus on those three objec­tives we agreed: are you get­ting on ok? Is there any­thing I can help with? Do you have every­thing you need to deliv­er on time?”.

Treat­ing peo­ple like adults; giv­ing them the resources they need to per­form and trust­ing that they’ll deliv­er on their agreed objec­tives: these are the foun­da­tions we need to have trans­paren­cy and vis­i­bil­i­ty in an effec­tive remote work­ing cul­ture. Hov­er­ing over them and watch­ing their every move will breed resent­ment, sti­fle cre­ativ­i­ty and pile on the stress at exact­ly the time when we should be find­ing ways to make the most of our new cir­cum­stances. We already have the tools we need. Let’s use them. 

Learn more about sup­port­ing your remote workers

Over 250 orga­ni­za­tions use Clear Review to man­age employ­ee per­for­mance — whether they are remote or not. Sign up for a free three-month tri­al of Clear Review to find out how you can get vis­i­bil­i­ty of your workforce.

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