The modern office has changed in the wake of the pandemic. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently made news by declaring that his employees could work from home permanently. Yet other companies had already implemented such arrangements even before the spread of Covid-19.
Evidence shows that trends toward full-time remote work had already been gaining momentum before 2020. This indicates that the remote workforce is here to stay.
It has been a vital part of the survival of numerous organizations during these chaotic times. But remote work also poses several challenges. As employers and their people move forward, they can’t settle for merely getting things done. These issues have to be addressed to improve performance.
Avoiding a disjointed operation
When your team members are dispersed, you have to coordinate across time zones. You’ll have to accommodate varying preferences among individuals. People working at home instinctively feel that the line between work and personal life gets blurred, and they push back. You might be able to get everyone together for a daily video conference, but don’t expect to be able to run that for more than an hour or two.
Remote teams invariably tend to work around the clock in a staggered manner. Fighting this can veer towards imposition on the flexibility of your employees. And since that’s seen as one of the significant benefits of remote work, you risk lowering their morale. But you have to find a way to balance that with team cohesion.
Businesses value the customer experience; they invest in extensive data collection to figure out how to improve various touchpoints. You measure customer satisfaction frequently with an NPS survey tool. But how often do you measure employee satisfaction and performance? How many aspects are being considered when the time comes for a performance review?
Performance management must change
Ultimately, business success is built upon systems. Talent certainly matters, but how you bring out the best in your people determines how effectively they apply themselves to their work.
Thus, the solution lies in revisiting and improving your performance management system. At the height of the disruption caused by the pandemic, simply being able to continue operations was cause for celebration. Now, you need to take a hard look at exactly how well remote work is working out for your business.
Are your old KPIs accurately measuring employee effectiveness? With all the new factors in play, chances are you could add a few while taking out some others.
Something as basic as timekeeping, for instance, might need revision. While legal compliance might still require accurate reporting, you can anticipate that in reality, actual work hours will bleed into leisure and family time for many employees.
So how can you implement a system of timekeeping that allows you to measure productivity without making employees feel as though you’re intruding or micro-managing their lives? You can stop relying on a bare-bones spreadsheet for clocking on and off, and start using a time-tracking app like Timely. This lets you recalibrate a measure of productivity without negating the perks of remote work for your employees.
Quick and actionable feedback
Along these lines, you can continue to evaluate your performance metrics and make changes that will give you a better idea of how well your remote team is doing. But there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: gathering and reviewing data must not bog down the process.
As the modern world becomes increasingly noisy and turbulent, it’s not just workers who benefit from greater flexibility. Organizations also need to be quick to respond and adapt. You already know that feedback you get from customers has to be processed rapidly. The same thing applies to feedback on employee performance. It must enable quick action towards improvement.
Leadership must be transparent
Pulling everything together requires trust. And trust is founded on excellent, open communication. This is a challenge most remote workers already have to navigate on their own.
As a leader, you can help in many ways, beginning with how your team utilizes their online communications channels. Besides that, the biggest opportunity might lie in driving data transparency within your organization.
Traditionally, only the upper management would get to see all the data and its implications. Now, data can help bring dispersed employees closer to the fold. Share their results along with the tangible measures of success or failure, and your remote workers will be better able to grasp how they contribute to the whole. It will make their work more meaningful and engaging.
Managing a remote team is new for almost everybody, and you’re likely to encounter challenges constantly. Embrace the stress, because as long as you’re managing employee performance, it will lead to improvement.