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/

 

 

POLITICS IN THE WORKPLACE

As we prepare to round out the year, I think it’s safe to say that we have learned a lot about human nature over the past months. We’ve experienced a lot and are fervently working to ensure that our work environments are successful.  This includes staying abreast of workplace trends and I’ve noticed that topics that were once taboo in the workplace have become more prevalent.  A question I receive from managers is “How to address politics in the workplace?”  As we attempt to move beyond the 2020 presidential election, inevitably, there will be perceived division, lingering feelings, thoughts and reactions that if left to fester, could have unwanted implications.

According to Diversity Best Practices, SHRM’s 2019 Politics at Work survey found political conversations in the workplace are increasing and causing conflict among employees:

  • 56 percent of employees say the discussion of political issues has become more common in the past four years
  • 44 percent have witnessed political disagreements in the workplace
  • 42 percent have personally experienced political disagreements in the workplace
  • 34 percent say their workplace is not inclusive of differing political perspectives
  • 12 percent of employees have personally experienced political affiliation bias

 

Courageous Conversations in the Workplace

A suggestion is to have frank discussions around some of the issues causing discord in the workplace.  However, it is not the easiest or most comfortable response. We spend more waking hours engaging with our work colleagues than we do our families.  It is an interesting dichotomy, because we are expected to be innovative, inclusive and productive in the workplace. However, working with individuals with differing experiences and opinions can become contentious.  This can be especially true during highly volatile periods in society such as presidential elections. When opinions are shared in an unproductive manner, such as negative body language, attire that demonstrates support for any political party and negative comments, it becomes a much larger problem that affects morale and productivity. 

Proactively creating a safe space for authentic conversations can be helpful. This can be demonstrated by allowing employees the opportunity to understand that it is okay to disagree with each other, while making it clear that civility and respect for others are not negotiable in the workplace. It also positions HR and other leaders to create equitable policies and procedures concerning trends and issues that are revealed during the sessions. 

Creating an environment for courageous conversations require a plan of action, as open dialogue about divisive topics can take a negative turn pretty quickly.  These types of forums must have the right person or team of  people to  effectively guide the process in a way that  diffuses conflict as it arises.  These are individuals who are aware of their personal biases and can move past them, have proven facilitation skills and if they are internal, have earned a high level of trust within the organization. At the end of the sessions, the goal is to have positive changes to workplace behavior.

Below are additional tools and suggestions for addressing politics in the workplace from Glassdoor.com

Do

  1. Know Your Audience.
    Before launching into a conversation about politics at work, it’s best to do a check-in with those around you to see if your colleagues are willing to have a light conversation. Get a clear sense of who you’re engaging with and make the conversation optional.
  2. Engage in Curious Dialogue
    Approach the conversation with genuine curiosity, instead of looking for an argument. If you’re trying to start a conversation with a colleague whose perspective you know to be different than your own, come from a place of curiosity. Consider saying, “I know we’re probably on opposite sides of the issue, and I’m really curious about what you think.”
  3. Politely Leave Tense Conversations
    If you are wary of political conversations or if you sense that a conversation is veering off course, it’s important to have a palette of language that you can use to exit conversations you don’t want to participate in. Consider saying, “I’ve put myself on a news break. I need to step away sometimes as it’s refreshing to get a hiatus.” Alternatively, you can say, “This is an important conversation, but I’m not sure it’s right for me.”

Politely leave conversations that you don’t want to be involved in, and respect others’ needs as well, especially if you know that a colleague is not open to these kinds of conversations. Respect is the key to making this work.

  1. Focus On Common Ground
    While you and your co-workers may not always agree on politics, you probably have core values that you share. Get back to those basics that bind you together. While you may not agree on the party or candidate that you support, you may find common ground on your shared support of Veterans, for example. Work with your colleagues on a project that reminds you that you’re all in this together. Because, despite your differences, you are.

Don’t

  1. Allow Derogatory or Disrespectful Comments
    Politics can be a very hot topic this year, however, it is completely possible to have a conversation that is respectful and honest without it becoming nasty. If you are going to engage in a political conversation at work, keep the conversation respectful and do not engage in slander, derogatory language or disrespectful comments.

If a disagreement turns into personalized attacks, the best course of action is to try saying something like, “The tone of the conversation is not appropriate for work and it’s no longer heading in a good direction. Let’s get back to work.”

  1. Use Work Communication Tools to Promote Your Political Beliefs
    In the era of Slack, Google Hangouts and Jive, it can be easy to share an article about the upcoming election or your favorite (or not so favorite) candidate. However, this can be problematic for your colleagues. Creating a safe and secure work environment is paramount, and political conversations on the company Slack channel can make team members feel alienated or attacked.
  2. Demonize the Opposing Views
    Politics can be very personal, and many people tend to hold tight to their beliefs. However, when emotions run high it’s imperative not to demean or vilify those who may hold views that differ from yours. There are consequences to alienating your colleagues who you work with every day. After all, any conversation or behavior that distracts from productivity and cohesion doesn’t belong at the office.

As leaders, we must have tenacity for creating inclusive and equitable work environments, continue to persevere and not settle for complacency. This is especially true when we’ve made the decision to  accept the messiness and discomfort of embracing and leveraging differences. Determination is a requirement for success, let’s demonstrate in every area of our work.

Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD

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

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