Dos and Don’ts of Managing Remote Workers

As we round out 2020,  I can’t help but hope that when we awake on (US) New Year’s Day, we will realize that this was an unpleasant dream.  Unfortunately, the probabilities of this happening are slim to none.  In reality, we continue to persevere through a pandemic, while grappling with some of the same professional topics. Managing remote workers is a prime example. A year ago, remote work was presented as a recruitment and retention tool on the menu of workplace flexibility options.  However, today, it has become a necessary work function. 

Having a workforce involuntarily transition to remote work can present different sets of challenges. They include onboarding new employees, leaders who find it difficult to make the shift and reduced engagement. However, working remotely also provides employees opportunities for increased creativity and autonomy. Both of which are great leadership skills. Leaders who are supportive and provide regular feedback set the stage for professional growth. This can eventually encourage employees to seek stretch assignments and eventually become the obvious choice for promotions.  Leaders play a major role in employees’ success and the same is true for remote workers. 

Employees desire to feel part of an organization that treats their employees in an inclusive and equitable manner. Here are a few suggestions on managing remote teams-

a Increase communication- Take time to connect with remote employees whether it’s through email, IM or face time to keep the lines of communication open. This also reiterates their importance to the team. Increasing communication with remote workers also increases engagement and ensure that everyone on the team stays informed.

r Avoid the urge to micromanage- Studies indicate remote workers work on average 4 more hours a week than their in-office counterparts.  This is attributed to flexible schedules and reduced commute times. Managers cannot monitor what employees are working on 100% of the time, whether they’re working in or out of the office. The goal is to focus on results. Productivity is evident based on results.

a Set clear expectations- communicate individual and team goals up front and often.  Having regular debrief sessions to review tasks and projects, are a way of ensuring clarity of expected outcomes. It also continues to demonstrate how their work aligns with reaching team and organizational goals. 

a Be flexible- Recognizing the diversity of your employee base and managing them as such, ensures their individual professional needs are met. Understanding differences in scheduling is important, especially when remote workers are juggling so many things during the day. Agreeing on definite times for availability is important.  It demonstrates empathy and trust for both parties and will be remembered once we emerge from the current crisis. 

r Don’t take advantage- Working remote sometimes means going above and beyond for some.  Remote workers want to prove they can be trusted when not in the office.  Encourage employees to take breaks and take advantage of vacation time.  When employees fail to draw the line between work and personal time, this can present professional and personal issues.

 

Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD

https://www.linkedin.com/in/takiyah-cunningham/

 

 



Navigating Courageous Conversations


2020 is a year that no one expected.  Octavia E. Butler, M. Knight Shyamalan, Stephen King or Jordan Peele could not have created a screenplay that encompasses the upheaval, uneasiness and confusion the world is experiencing.  As we continue to adjust to minimal human interaction while sustaining our businesses, there is a backdrop of social issues plaguing society. As a result, unspoken lines are being drawn based on instances of microaggressions, unequitable pay and fear of authenticity in the workplace. To create spaces that are truly inclusive, we must seek to truly understand, stop overlooking negative behavior and become accustomed to being uncomfortable by engaging in courageous conversations.

These Conversations Are Important

The ability to have conversations that are forthright or courageous is a dynamic tool and especially effective in the workplace. The engagement opportunities can be used to motivate, engage and educate. Unfortunately, this skillset is not one that is emphasized in job descriptions or KPIs. According to a report by Coaching at Work, 2018, a whopping 90% of managers and leaders do not address poor performance or difficult behavior effectively. Of these 90%, 70% are either unable or unwilling to have the courageous conversation needed to address the issue. When delving even more deeply, the research found that 20% of managers and leaders are unable to have the conversation without using an aggressive style, while only 10% are actually having conversations with clarity, purpose and a style that engages rather than blames or shames the other. These conversations require resilience, bravery, honesty and empathy.  Because it is in our nature to seek comfort, these interactions are avoided therefore allowing discord to fester.

Hot Topics with a Formulated Approach

Allison was one of two African- American women on the leadership team.  She and the other

African- American woman are consistently being confused with each other by the division executive.  Allison, who resents not being valued as an individual, recognizes this as an opportunity to have a conversation with the executive to discuss the importance of receiving respect in the workplace. 

 

Preparation is key as these conversations can be stressful.  This is an opportunity to take your leadership to the next level, no matter your formal title in the organization.  The goal is to address the proverbial elephant in the room while clearly articulating your position, listening and proposing solutions.

Don’t Delay- When a situation arises that requires a courageous conversation, act fast. Avoidance increases resentment and inhibits trust, open communication, innovation and production.

Intention- When preparing for a difficult conversation, be sure to focus on the matter and check your “feelings”.  If you start to get defensive, change your mindset and focus on growth and clarity by clearly stating boundaries and values

Location- Be intentional about creating a “safe” space.  This includes a neutral meeting space, setting ground rules and having body language that is open and receptive.

Have Grace- The purpose of this conversation is not to demean or exert your power. Do not resort to petty insults, as this will reduce your credibility and the message will be lost. Always meet people where they are.

The Outcome

Immediately following the most recent incident, Allision sends an invitation for coffee and indicated that there is a matter she would like to discuss. Next, Allison takes the time to create talking points for reference. She also practices the scenario and possible responses/reactions she might receive.  At the meeting, Allison states the issue while making sure her posture is open and welcoming. She also performs regular check-ins throughout the conversation to confirm that she is clearly articulating her message. Though obvious that the executive is initially uncomfortable, as the dialogue continues, the two reach a deeper understanding of each other and the importance of respect in the workplace. 

 

Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD

https://www.linkedin.com/in/takiyah-cunningham/

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