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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Do's and Don'ts for Managing a Remote Workforce


We are in unprecedented times in the business world. With so many workers now performing their tasks remotely, many organizations find themselves facing a new predicament — how to cope with employee performance management when employees aren’t in the office with their manager.

Of course, this isn’t a completely new scenario. Employees have been effectively working remotely for years, even before the Internet. However, many companies relied on top performers and proven self-managers to “earn” the right to work from home (WFH). With an increased remote workforce now expanded to employees without WFH experience, managers may find themselves in a position where they need to have some additional conversations as employees settle into their new routines.

Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you navigate these unfamiliar waters.


What to Do

DO communicate regularly and promote teamwork.

Communication and connections are imperative when dealing with a remote workforce. Schedule time to have check-in conversations on a regular basis — more often than under normal circumstances. Though you’re not all in the same building, reach out regularly, talk through task planning and lean on each other to get the work done when needed. When it comes to teamwork, think distance empowerment rather than social distancing.

DO set goals and hold your employees to them.

Set performance goals and promote accountability — no excuses for not getting things done because someone is not in the office! That said, be sure employees know what that means. Help them get there by establishing your expectations. If an employee is struggling to meet their goals, check in to see what management can do to help. Workers have been successfully contributing from their home offices for years, but it takes discipline.

DO use technology.

Leverage the technology you have available or adopt something new if what you have isn’t enough. It’s easy to keep the video setting off when you’re on a conference call, but it’s amazing how much more of a connection can occur by letting others see your face. We live in an unparalleled age of technological resources — it’s time to think about new ways to work.

DO focus on the output.

Consider the body of work your employees may be required to complete. For salaried workers, remember that their exempt status is based on this work, not on the hours it takes to get it done. Although it’s tempting to feel the need to micromanage an employee’s time online, you’ll be better served to concentrate instead on making sure they’re getting their work done and meeting the established goals you’ve mutually set (see that discussion above!).

DO think outside the box.

Be innovative. Try new things. Get the work done but realize the rules of the game have changed. Keep in mind, working from home requires employees to focus their attention on some additional things: avoiding distractions, carving out a workspace in sometimes close environments, and keeping their focus on the work at hand when other family members may also be home, etc. Be open to trying new methods to get work done, particularly improvements that are suggested by your seasoned staff.

DO encourage employees to think about your business.

Remind your team to think about the bigger picture during this time. By working from home, employees are providing their companies a way to continue to produce work, which allows for continued jobs. It’s a win-win, provided both sides contribute their parts.

DO be positive.

Stay positive! See the greatness in your team, but don’t be afraid to change up situations that aren’t working. In the end, we’re all learning some new tips and tricks through this experience. You can use the methods above to make it a little easier to navigate.


What Not to Do

DON’T avoid goal setting in an uncertain environment.

Setting goals and managing expectations are even more important during unpredictable times. Plan your team’s work and assign tasks as appropriate. Take this time as an opportunity to dig in and manage the workflow of your team.

DON’T forget to encourage team building and professional development.

Although everyone is busy getting used to their new workspace in a remote environment, don’t forget that many employees provide support and camaraderie to each other during the day. Allow employees to remain connected online, and even schedule a “virtual happy hour” or another remote social event to keep your team interacting. Also, you should continue to encourage employees to seek knowledge and grow professionally. More than ever, now is the time to read and grow.

DON’T lose the forest for the trees.

This is a caution against micromanagement. When employees are in the office, you might feel more at ease about the work they are doing. Now that they’re remote, some managers may feel the need to track tasks or watch employees’ time more closely. While these things are obviously still important, don’t allow them to distract you from what you’re really trying to accomplish. What are your true business goals and what is your mission? Remember, that’s still the most important — it’s the road to get you where you want to go.

DON’T shy away from performance issues.

Instead of avoiding a conversation until the damage is already done, consider talking to employees to get in front of the issue. Help them course-correct right away so they stay on track with their work. Document your conversations and continue to support them. Hopefully the performance issue will pass; if it does not, your documentation will be helpful to support any additional action, up to and including termination, that you may decide to take. Always speak with a Human Resources professional before engaging in termination activities to be sure the proper preparation and decision-making steps are taken.

DON’T avoid broken processes — fix what’s not working fast.

At Armanino, we often use the term “fail fast.” This means trying to recognize quickly when something is not working. In the long term, it’s better for the business to realize when to change direction up front, instead of beleaguering a broken process for too long. If something isn’t right, tackle it and course-correct quickly.

For the latest regulatory updates and more information on keeping your business running through disruption, visit the Armanino COVID-19 Resource Center.

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