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/

 

 

 

Leaders- Don’t Be the Snag in Your Teams

 

Early in my career, I worked on a team where my manager was obviously clueless about an aspect of the work our team was responsible for. New to the professional world, I thought it was just me. I quickly realized that was not the case after hearing most of the seasoned team members express their frustrations during the meetings after the meeting. I remember feeling lost and thinking I would never advance in the company because my leader was not capable of leading us.  In hindsight, I realize that that leader could not give what they didn’t have. I also realized there’s more to a leader than the title. Leadership is a gift. When you can directly lead others, you are creating your legacy. Everyone you lead will think back to their experiences with you, good or bad, and draw from them. Therefore, a leader’s greatest asset is a continuous development plan. 

Many organizations have robust learning and development strategies as part of the talent management goal of recruiting, developing and retaining top talent. However, most learnings happen in the day to day interactions and experiences.  For those who are new to the professional environment, as well as more seasoned employees, having a leader who is self-aware and vested in their personal continuous development, regardless of title or tenure, is a win for everyone involved. Leaders who take time to invest in themselves set a standard for those around them.  It demonstrates a desire for continual growth as well as traits of authenticity and humbleness. These leaders serve as positive role models for their teams, especially those desiring to take on leadership roles in the future. Leaders who are equipped with a range of skills are aligned to quickly pivot in the face of change as well as increasing team productivity. An example of this is how leaders have responded to all the change we have and continue to encounter almost daily.  Those who did not bury their heads in the sand but made learning and understanding a priority demonstrated to their teams a commitment to personal success as well as the teams’ success.

Leaders who focus on a well-rounded development plan throughout their career are more emotionally connected, continue to drive performance over longer periods of time and decrease leadership gaps. There are three areas where leaders should focus their development- personal, professional and operational.

Personal Development Plan- Focuses on boosting emotional, physical and even spiritual health.  This can be achieved through reading, listening to podcasts, making lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise and meditating. Even spending more time with those you care about can aid with this goal.  

Professional Development Plan- Aimed at reinforcing business acumen in areas of specific interest. This includes topics like time management, Emotional Intelligence and Empathy training, coaching and mentoring, or the art of creating engaging presentations.

Operational Development Plan- This plan aids with developing skills that help you advance in or stay abreast of industry trends in your line of work. Continuous focus on expanding your knowledge and skills in the area directly aligned with your organizational responsibilities can save the business time and money. It also allows leaders to remain competitive, while reducing gaps in leadership knowledge. 

Whether you are the CEO or middle level manager, do not be the snag in the team. Leading a team does not allow room for complacency or outdated methods.  Effective leaders set good examples by investing in their personal development, providing resources, following up on team members’ progress and displaying commitment to the process. Having a team where everyone is focused on continuous growth lends itself to innovation, out of the box thinking and cutting-edge business solutions.

 

Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD

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

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