First, give them time to adjust, and offer to help. Ask employees if there is anything you can do to support them.
How can leaders fully evaluate a remote employee? What are the challenges of (and solutions to) the adaptation of remote working?
Challenge #1: I can’t see what they are doing while working from home.
Indeed, you cannot physically see what employees are doing. You may not see them on a Zoom call either, as many do not engage in turning on their video.
(And is that really coffee in their mug?)
First, this may be a good time to address the micromanager in you. If you have any of those tendencies, you most likely will see them come out in this situation where your employees are working from home. Look at this as an opportunity to grow and to learn to trust.
You CAN gauge their progress in other ways, which will tell you if they are using their time wisely. And the best way to track their progress is to first set clear individual goals for the week or month.
Also, establish a “camera-on” culture for Zoom calls! It starts with you. It tells everyone you expect the whole team to be present. Let them know you LIKE seeing their faces. When the expectation to turn on cameras is established, employees are more likely to be decently dressed, display a better overall appearance, and even increase productivity.
Have scheduled Zoom coffee breaks mid-mornings just to hang out and talk – like taking a real walk to the break room. Some start every day with a group chat to set the tone for the day. You don’t have to talk about anything work-related; sometimes, it’s better that you don’t.
Managers can implement a policy that allows employees to work their own schedules, as long as they’re putting in the time and producing expected results. Employees respond well to managers who communicate proper respect and trust. It often results in mutual regard.
Many leaders allow employees to block times on the team calendar when they have family responsibilities and will be away from their work
stations. They may need to pick up their kids from school.
It’s not to keep tabs on employees; it enables employees to communicate when they are not available. It’s also a way to empower employees to control their lives and devise a schedule that works for them.
Challenge #2: How can I tell if they are putting in the same energy as they did when surrounded by coworkers in the office setting?
There’s a healthy pressure to perform when surrounded by your peers. Employees now have to transfer the energy they had in that setting to their home office space. Every day employees need to make the choice to perform well when nobody’s looking. That in itself takes energy if they aren’t used to having to self-govern.
You can tell by your conversations with employees whether they are enthusiastic about their work. It’s obvious when someone has invested themselves emotionally and physically in their work.
You can hear it in their voice. They will often offer more details because they will be proud of their accomplishments and want to share them.
Conversely, listen for lethargic or avoidance tones. Are they bored? Do they have enough challenging work on their plate? Or are they frustrated with having too much work? Have their goals been identified and clearly communicated? And are they struggling to admit they’re stuck on something and don’t know how to get past it?
Try to find the reason behind the lack of motivation and seek to resolve it. In some cases, you could take care of the issue within minutes. This is where showing some understanding and compassion is helpful.
Challenge #3: It’s often hard to tell if their new work life is too difficult for them to manage well independently.
Working from home has its share of obstacles. Multiple family member interruptions, someone at the door, the dog… There are plenty of variables they did not have pulling at them at the office. A month could go by, and you find out they didn’t meet their goals.
First, give them time to adjust, and offer to help. Ask employees if there is anything you can do to support them. Regular one-on-one meetings are important to better understanding an employee’s personal life and keeping them accountable to the tasks assigned.
Communicate weekly goals and talk about them at your one-on-one meetings. Discuss each person’s workload (privately, not at team meetings) – do they have too much or too little to do?
Finally, don’t micromanage; assume the best in your people. If they are struggling, coaching may be needed to help them adjust to their new environment. Be sensitive to their needs and offer solutions to the challenges they face. Stay positive and encouraging.
- You may not see what everyone is doing at home, but you can definitely quantify progress and know who’s putting in their time. Use Zoom calls to keep everyone connected as a team and to discuss their workload.
- The result of working from home may be a shift in energy, that being lower than when they interacted with coworkers in person. Conversations about their work will reveal what adjustments may be needed to help raise the amount of energy they have to approach their workload.
- Strive to gain a better understanding of an employee’s situation at home. Are they in a house full of family members, homeschooling one or more children, and have two dogs and a cat? Or are they home alone? What distractions are keeping them from their usual productivity? Listen to them and see if you can offer solutions.
Remote work is here to stay. We all need to face the challenges that come with that, and work to bring solutions to each person. Have grace for one another as you all figure this out together.