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.
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:
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.