As a manager for remote workers, you’ll naturally want to ensure they are actually working from home.
After all, remote work can make it easier for employees to try and take advantage of avoiding work. And as a manager, it’s tough for you to know because you aren’t in the same physical location.
The good news is there are some ways you can ensure remote employees are working and delivering results while being a good leader.
However, you also need to be cautious. You don’t want to appear like you don’t trust the people on your team, nor should you be micromanaging or invading their privacy.
What Not to Do
Before I get into the steps to ensure your team members or working remotely, it’s important you know what not to do first.
Too often company executives or managers create a culture of distrust and want to monitor remote workers every single move. Please don’t do this.
There is various employee monitoring software out there, where some have features like every search and keystroke is monitored.
Or worse, your company is requiring remote employees to have their webcams on all day. Uh, what?
I don’t know about you, but I certainly would never work for a remote company that encourages managers to use employee monitoring software or to have your webcam on all day. If you can’t trust the people you hire, then that’s a hiring problem.
Of course, your company computer should have anti-virus software and other privacy locks to safeguard company data and tech. But there is a fine line between that and continuously spying.
Tips to Ensure Remote Employees Are Working
So without constantly monitoring remote employees, how can you ensure they are working? The great news is there are various ways as a manager to ensure productivity, without destroying trust, morale, or disrupting privacy.
1. Trust Your Remote Workers
Before anything else, I’m going to start with trust. If you want to ensure employees are actually working from home, you need to trust them.
Remote work can only be successful if you trust your team or the people you hire from day 1. You give employees the opportunity to feel valued and respected, instead of feeling like you are babysitting them every day.
Remote employees want managers to trust them, and generally will work or do things that prove they can be trusted. Of course, trust can still be broken. But give everyone that freedom and trust to start and you’ll already build a better remote work culture among your team.
Back in 2017, Harvard Business Review published the results of a decade-long study on the neuroscience of trust. And one of those statistics found that employees in high-trust organizations reported 50% higher productivity than their counterparts in low-trust ones,
2. Create Measurable Employee Goals
So beyond giving trust to your employees, what’s next? Well, another way to ensure remote employees are working is to create measurable goals.
I know what you are thinking and yes, creating goals is such a common tip among most business articles or strategies. But it’s because it works when done right!
By creating measurable goals or OKRs as they also are called, it makes it easy to understand if remote workers are completing projects and tasks. And it helps employees have a bit more structure if they are relatively new to the remote work environment.
The best remote companies will not only trust their people but encourage managers to provide clear goals for their teams.
3. Monitor Remote Productivity
Related to the goals, as a manager you’ll want to monitor productivity as well. Again, this is not employee monitoring software. Instead, this is more about monitoring the goals and the progress of given tasks.
Are work deliverables on time? Is there consistency in the updates a remote worker is providing? What progress is being made on various projects and deadlines?
These are all solid indicators that can signal if employees are actually getting work done at home. And the good news is there are plenty of useful project management and productivity tools that your teams can use.
4. Have Regular Scheduled Check-Ins
Another great way to ensure work is getting done is to have regularly scheduled 1:1s with individual remote employees.
Now, there also is a careful balance here. As you don’t need daily check-ins or 1:1s, because you now create an environment of distrust and micromanaging.
It can feel invasive or that you are spying on your team every day. And that does not create a happy remote or productive remote team!
Instead, you can schedule weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly check-ins with each individual. And be clear that the meeting is about more than just the work, but questions, concerns, or anything else they’d like to chat about as well.
Now you can get insights into the work, projects, and get to know them further or address any needs they may have.
5. Provide the Best Remote Tools
As hinted in an earlier tip, you’ll want to ensure remote workers have the best tools to be successful with their work. But it’s not just tools that track tasks and ensure projects are done.
Your organization should have the best remote tools that will improve communication and collaboration. In remote work, those are two critical areas that will make employees feel heard and connected, but better align the business among a distributed workforce.
There are many categories of tools to consider like project management, communications, video, collaboration, HR, and more.
Also, you should consider granting a stipend for home office needs, supplies, and equipment. You want to ensure remote employees have the things they need to be successful in their home office.
6. Create A Culture of Work Flexibility
Although this might come from the company executives, as a manager you should create a culture of flexibility for your remote team.
Beyond the flexibility of working from home, you encourage more freedom for remote workers to work when is best for them. This means they don’t need to follow the typical 9 to 5 workday.
Often, companies focus on the hours instead of the deliverables and quality of work. If someone works best working early, let them work 7 to 3. Or if they like to split up their day in increments, encourage that.
As long as remote workers are productive, meeting deadlines, and hitting their goals – what does it matter the exact times they are working?
I realize not every company can be THAT flexible. However, even simple things such as letting employees manage their time, schedules, and being able to go to appointments without hassle will boost results and morale.
Managing remote teams can be challenging, but also super rewarding. And sometimes you may feel a bit more pressure, especially when you have a distributed workforce potentially all around the world.
Since you are in a remote environment, you still want to ensure employees are actually working from home. Following the tips above will help virtual work go much more smoothly and will ensure your team doesn’t feel like they can’t be trusted.
It’s a careful balance, but the tips above create long-term remote success.
Happy remote working!