Managing Staff That Work from Home
Recently, working from home seems to have become the standard rather than the exception. Managers had a tough enough time managing people when they were a few cubicles away, now they need to trust their management skills as well as their team members doing the job at their home office. Remote offices have been in practice for quite some time. However, those specific company cultures ensured the tools provided were designed for remote working success. When managing people who work from home, your management style should remain consistent; it is the management process that may need some adjustments. These 5 areas will help give you a roadmap to ensure your remote team will have clarity, collaboration, and commitment while they are working from home.
1. Create Trust
You hired or inherited your team members for a reason, because you believe they are capable of doing what is expected of them. Great leaders and managers earn the trust and respect of others, but that trust factor must run both ways. A manager's focus needs to be spent developing, teaching, and supporting their team members rather than policing and wondering what their team is doing (or not doing) during the workday. The confidence to encourage autonomy knowing that what is expected will be the team's focus is a level of trust that needs to become part of the team culture. Team members that recognize and feel their management has complete faith, trust, and confidence will work hard, make good decisions, and do the right thing, which creates a successful roadmap in remote empowerment.
2. Set Clear and Realistic Expectations
Working remotely can create several benefits and challenges depending on the employees' ability to manage their newfound autonomy. A manager's guide to ensure a level of consistency, clarity, and confidence is to provide clear and realistic expectations. Although every employee and working environment is different, it is important to recognize the role that not only the employee needs to play, but also the role of the manager. Establishing expectations needs to be mutually defined rather than a "I told you so" mentality, whereas the employee feels a lack of control while not clearly understanding their daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities. A simple management method is to use "M2O/T" which is defined as Mutually Defined Measurable Objectives over a period of Time. In other words, the expectation/objective should be mutually discussed between the manager and employees with a specific timeframe attached to the objective. Lastly, the expectation must be measurable. Otherwise, how can management coach and develop without any measurable indicator supporting the effort?
An example of M2O/T is:
"Mary will initiate the project planning with her team by April 1, 2022. The team will then begin the planning process implementation and complete stage 3 by August 31, 2022. Finally, Mary's team will complete the review process and ongoing monitoring of the project no later than December 31, 2022."
Setting clear and realistic expectations doesn't seem too difficult. However, ensuring that all relevant parties are involved when creating the specific roles and expectations is crucial to both you and the employees' ultimate success.
3. Stay in Touch
In many ways, working from home can be very rewarding. You feel the joy of independence, freedom, and working at your own pace without someone always looking over your shoulder, and at times, you get the opportunity to mix your personal activities (taking/picking up the kids from school, laundry, meeting friends for lunch) with your professional life. That said, it can also be a very lonely experience working from home. You need the constant self-motivation to begin each day ready to make an impact as well as the motivation to know when it's time to end the day since your "work" is always right in front of you. Not to mention, dressing appropriately, managing your time efficiently, and meeting your daily goals can always be an ongoing challenge, which is why management must continually stay in touch with their team members. Monday morning meetings, 1-on-1's, check-ins, conference calls, off-site gatherings, etc. are excellent ways to ensure your employees know you are consistently there for them. Too often does management seem to reach out or pay attention to their team members only when something goes wrong. However, staying in touch to support, develop, assist, train, and coach makes it clear to your employees that your primary responsibility is focused on their success.
4. Balance and Prioritize
Whether your team members are working from home or in an office, the importance of balance and prioritization is vital. Part of a manager's role is to encourage a healthy work/life balance. A happy and healthy employee is a productive one and will inevitably reduce your turnover rate. Trusting in your team members to work on tasks before them while exceeding overall expectations and promoting flexibility, so they are balancing between their professional and personal life can be viewed as a game changer.
5. Encourage Independence
Due to the recent changes and acceptance in the remote working environment, many employees are not comfortable or perhaps just not sure how to adjust to working remotely. Encouraging independence and providing "best practices" while working from home gives your employees a sense of certainty rather than having them feel like they are riding solo. Also, providing or suggesting a peer-to-peer mentor program so to share what's working and what's not can be a confidence builder as well as an excellent team-building activity that can have a number of positive effects.
Working remotely is not for everyone. Some will excel almost immediately where others will need a much-needed ramp-up period. No matter the team member, be prepared to manage a process that is consistent for every team member as well as manage each individual taking into account their specific strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working remotely. Patience and understanding are a great way to begin your journey in managing your staff working from home.
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