Concerns of Leaders
As our Buzz Session participants discussed, virtual workers who perform work anytime and at any place can be difficult to manage in traditional ways.
- How can I determine if the worker is doing a good job?
- How are supervisors maintaining interactions and connections with remote workers?
- Is that worker really working? How productive are they?
- Should I up my requests so that I’m assured that the worker is working?
- What boundaries should I impose?
The number one concern among leaders who manage remote workers is whether these workers will be as productive as they are in the facility. Of course, the answer varies by individual. The key here is, don’t take the wait-and-see approach. A blog on the subject by TechRepublic suggests that leaders “set clear expectations, give employees reasonable workloads, and schedule regular check-ins to see if they need any resources to complete the work. This is how you catch things before they become problems.” And truly, isn’t this how we should be managing every day?
By focusing on outcomes and project work completed on time, you can instill a sense of independence and trust among remote workers. Experts recommend that leaders allow and actually encourage a great deal of autonomy and independent decision-making. The old top-down “do it because I said so” form of leadership will not work here. (Incidentally, it never was sustainable, even when we were face-to-face, so this is a great practice for the long haul.)
Do make a conscious effort to improve the speed of your response time. When workers are face-to-face, they can get answers to questions relatively quickly. Remote workers, on the other hand, can wait hours for a simple response. Be aware of this fact. Share with employees and agree on a communications protocol. For example, you may be processing hundreds of emails every day. If a question needs your urgent attention, agree with remote workers that they will call or text you to alert you to the time-sensitive request.
There’s no reason to forgo daily stand up meetings either. Have a quick, daily check in, even if the employee is not physically in the office.
Don’t Neglect the Big Picture
When there are multiple immediate needs clambering for our attention, and tomorrow is still unclear, it’s easy to lose sight of the Organizational Culture and Strategic Plan. How are you sharing the broader goals of the organization, its values, and making sure all stay-at-home workers continue to keep the company Mission in sight?
This is a good time to re-evaluate your company values. Values provide a foundation of expectations that remote employees -- as well as others -- are responsible for following. For example, if one of your values is Integrity, that means being personally accountable even when nobody is looking.
- Talk to work-at-home employees at least once a week to find out how it is going for them, personally and professionally. This builds trust.
- Continue to recognize remote workers for input and encourage others on the team to seek them out for their experience and ideas.
- Make sure virtual workers feel involved and connected. Keep everyone focused with routine updates.
In summary, check your technology, check in frequently, and check your focus on where you’re headed as an organization. Working from home can help save money, improve employee engagement, reduce turnover, and provide higher levels of job satisfaction -- if it is handled well. Use remote opportunities to increase workers’ sense of independence, while you promote a healthier work-life balance. That’s a safe practice that bodes well for all of us, not only now, but into the future.
Interested in joining a Buzz Session? View the list of upcoming sessions:
Manufacturing Leader Buzz Session: Sales in a Virtual World
August 11 @ 2 pm
Join manufacturing leaders to discuss first-hand how today's manufacturers are adapting and thriving in a virtual sales world.
Manufacturing Leader Buzz Session: Onboarding New Employees in a Remote World
August 18 @ 2 pm
A discussion on how to engage new hires for a successful transition to your company, even in a remote world.
Manufacturing Leader Buzz Session: Strategic Planning in Uncertain Times
August 25 @ 10 am
Join a conversation with other manufacturing leaders to share the strategic planning challenges you face, and learn from the best practices guiding other manufacturers — no matter what the future might bring.