Always intrigued by new tech, I asked my son about TikTok and he sent me a Facebook link to a compilation of TikTok videos. ‘This one, you might like’, he said, ‘It was done on Zoom.’’ That piqued my interest. I use Zoom daily, maybe even more than once, so I was curious about what it was.
The video was of a Zoom call with about 15 separate windows and there seemed to be an elderly teacher talking to several kids on the call. Suddenly, music starts playing, taking the teacher by surprise. She asks the kids where it’s coming from. None of the kids answer and just as abruptly, burst into song and dance.
These kids had recorded themselves pranking their teacher numerous times and the teacher, still clueless, desperately asks the kids to stop and behave. ‘Can’t imagine your staff pranking you like this :P’ my son had continued, ‘I suppose it wouldn’t be so easily dismissed haha.’
I knew it was sarcasm directed at my supposed quiet and serious nature, and while I replied, ‘I can be fun when I want to’’, I secretly thanked my lucky stars that my teams hadn’t disrupted any of our Zoom meetings during the lockdown!
COVID-19 pushed almost the entire world into remote working and online learning environments, whether we were ready for it or not. While there is a clear distinction between the two, remote working can just as easily get out of hand (like it was for that poor teacher in the video) if there aren’t proper employee management policies in place.
Inspired by that video, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on effective remote employee management.
Effective remote employee management doesn’t only mean providing employees with a working phone and a laptop. If you want your employees to be productive while maintaining complete transparency, having the right tech is a must.
Discuss and decide what your teams need for remote working and invest in tech tools that make WFH easier. Do your research well and look for solutions that have long-term applicability.
It’s also important that you remember that a grace period (including training if this is necessary) must be accommodated to help your teams find their way around these tools. In this process, don’t assume they know how to operate them and be available to answer any questions they may have.
The most effective remote employee management strategies have one thing in common: There are set expectations on important things like working hours, communication, and collaboration.
During WFH, employees may feel like they’re far away from each other, not simply because of the physical distance, but because of the delay in responses from the people they work with. They feel close when communication is predictable – not necessarily fast, just predictable.
Discuss and agree on the following with your teams:
Scheduled work hours including start time and end time
How to prioritize responding to queries during work hours and regarding urgent tasks during their time off?
Do they notify all team members or just the team leader when they’re unavailable?
Communication is incredibly important when leading a remote team. Without any transparency in this process, communication is like swimming without seeing where you’re going. During this time, I’ve been doing the following to make sure my team and I are on the same page:
A weekly action review on Monday morning so everyone can share their weekly priorities, problems, and data
One-on-one meetings with direct reports at least once a week
Midday and end-of-day updates from each employee on the progression of their tasks
Video conference calls need to be part of your remote employee management strategy if it is to be effective. A few of the reasons why I practise a video-first policy is because:
The ability it gives me to observe and use non-verbal communication
It encourages employees to participate in meetings from a dedicated workstation, as opposed to joining the call while doing something else
Greater visibility into employees’ challenges and concerns
Relationships at work are critical to high-performance teams and meaningful friendships contribute to increased levels of trust, motivation, engagement, and productivity. In a traditional office setting, the lunchroom and water cooler chit-chat helps employees find out more about each other.
With remote work, you might have to become more creative in providing your employees with the opportunity to connect and understand each other. You could invest in tools that help your teams understand each others’ personalities to form meaningful bonds based on mutual trust and collaboration.
Corporate America was already moving towards a remote working model and according to a recent Qualtrics survey, ‘Is America ready to return to work and get back to business?’, more and more Americans are finding it hard to return to the office unless necessary precautions are put in place.
While employees are more willing to WFH in the safety of their home, without effective remote employee management tools and policies in place, adapting to the new normal is bound to be incredibly challenging.