In recent years there has been a definite shift in the management of performance and productivity away from the traditional rigid system of scheduled one-on-ones to a more fluid feedback process with regular ad–hoc and timely conversations.
With the dramatic move to working remotely this leadership style will pay dividends to those leaders who have embraced this more engaging style of leadership and communication.
Don’t despair, however if your organisation is still utilising a more traditional approach, there are simple tweaks you can make to engage with your teams, albeit from afar. I would even go as far and say that our increased usage of video conferencing and team chats has provided us with the impetus most of us needed to test our flexibility as leaders and embrace managing a workforce whether it be through broader flexibility arrangements or the use of technology or both.
Working remotely has its challenges for leaders, even for the best of us. Maintaining a line of sight on productivity is vital and which can be harder for some roles than others. At Skildare we have probably talked more about this very topic than any other with our clients recently including how to make it a collaborative process and to enable your team to report on their week in broad terms (remember this is not about micro-management, but rather better communication).
However, if you take nothing else away from this article, please consider this – regular communication via phone and/or video platforms is essential. The time you give to your team as their leader is your greatest influence during these challenging times (and always).
Below I have also outlined brief, practical and effective leadership habits that will help leaders manage productivity and morale whilst leading remotely:
Regular face-to-face Communication
Schedule a regular one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports at the same time every week. Use Outlook and resist the temptation to reschedule wherever possible. Use video conferencing in preference to the phone. You will be able to engage with your team and read their mood and body language far better.
Set defined Weekly Goals
Goals will differ for each employee including how they may be required to report on them. With longer-term goals, agree on the specific outcomes to be achieved for the week. These goals should also include the support, if required, they will receive from you or the business.
Be realistic with your Expectations
Everything is not going to go perfectly every week because:
- There are barriers working from home, such as sharing workspace with partners and children;
- Hours of work may need to flex, especially whilst parents are required to keep their children away from school. Discuss and accommodate an agreed pattern of work if it differs from their ordinary hours of work. This ensures your communication and expectations can align with their working hours, not as a means to micro-manage.
- Sometimes goals won’t be achieved – discuss why, and re-strategise on the following week’s goals. Flexible support and open communication will help minimise this happening too often.
Time Management and Deadlines
Where a goal has a hard deadline, that will be challenging to meet:
- Provide guidance on time management strategies;
- Let them know it is ok to turn emails and team chat off for a couple of hours to focus on the task at hand (provided they communicate this to relevant parties);
- If your Award allows it and they are more focused early in the morning or later at night, be flexible to allow them to work during their peak productive times. Be mindful of your Award span of hours and penalties that may be applicable.
Capacity vs Workload
Workload/capacity when working remotely can be hard to gauge:
- Ask your team to rate their capacity weekly;
- It can provide an opportunity to allocate them more tasks or redistribute work;
- If they are feeling over-tasked, seek to understand why and how you can assist;
- Keep in mind in the early stages and whilst we all adjust, the ‘new normal’ is going to have a direct impact on the resilience of your team which may be reflected in their output and how they may react to the ever-changing landscape of the workplace.
Wellbeing & Mental Health
Take the time to check in to ask:
- How are you coping?
- How are you feeling?
- What are your current stressors?
- Ensure you have handy online resources and tools that you can provide that may assist with their mental health or domestic abuse situation;
- Where workloads are reduced and it is causing them to feel overwhelmed, offer them to take annual leave to allow them to reset.
Workplace Rules and Setup
Normal workplace rules apply even when working from home. This includes:
- Working in accordance with company policies and procedures;
- Working safely;
- Meeting expectations;
- Meeting deadlines;
- Providing and receiving feedback both positive and constructive;
- Actioning and/or participating in disciplinary action where required and appropriate.