Many business leaders who shifted their teams to remote work at the start of the pandemic didn’t expect it to be a permanent change. Now, as more employers and employees are realizing the benefits of flexible work arrangements, it’s clear that, for many, working from home at least some of the time is here to stay. The problem is, it’s not always easy for leaders to stay on top of employees’ productivity when they’re not in the office.
Leaders need to find ways to ensure their teams stay on track no matter where they’re working. Below, 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust offer their best advice to help you maintain employee productivity and oversight while they’re not physically in the office.
1. Develop clear objectives and accountability.
Leaders must make sure their teams have clear objectives, accountability and autonomy in delivering them, and the tools to help them move fast. And don’t forget the basics: Employees need fast internet and tech enablers to stay connected. – Kevin Neher, McKinsey & Company
2. Leverage a centralized task management system.
A centralized task management system is one way to ensure employees’ productivity while they’re working remotely. Leaders will be able to track who is doing what, how much they are doing and how they are performing. Having a centralized task management system gives leaders a better level of comfort seeing that work is being done and employees are staying on track. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting
3. Take care of your employees’ well-being.
Ensuring that employees stay on track while working from home means taking care of the employee first. Address barriers to working from home such as technology, space and so on. Be aware that some may need more flexibility than others. People are also productive when they’re accountable, so check in with them more often to make sure everything is on track. Implement a system for visibility if you haven’t already. – Jay Feitlinger, StringCan Interactive
4. Have a tailored communication plan for each employee.
Leaders can help employees working from home stay on track through a strong communications plan that’s tailored for each person — their personality, their projects and their processes. Leaders should listen more, talk less and take notes during conversations. Encourage employees to ask questions. If a leader does not know the answer to a question, they can follow up later with the information. – Rolly Dessert, Academy Leadership
5. Set mutually agreed-upon goals.
Jointly agreeing on goals is the key. Dependable performers can be trusted to get the work done however and wherever they are. If you both track to jointly set goals, responsibilities and accountabilities, it works much more often than not. – Mark Coronna, Chief Outsiders
6. Hold team members accountable.
As a leader, it is your role to ensure your team members have clear expectations on what they need to focus on and what the outcome should be. It is a lot easier to stay on track at home with clear priorities. Hold your team members accountable for advancing those projects and achieving the required milestones. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting
7. Hold a daily stand-up meeting.
We use agile development principles and have daily stand-ups. Every day starts with each team member stating what they completed yesterday, what they are doing today and if there’s anything that’s blocking their progress. This approach applies to any job function with clear action-oriented goals. It lets us track progress, hold each other accountable and address anything preventing progress to goals. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.
8. Track time spent on tasks.
Activity tracking allows leadership to have insight into how much time is spent on each task and/or a project as a whole. Simply analyzing how your team manages time is not only a smart way to create pricing and invoices, but it also helps you predict your team’s workloads and improve your business. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
9. Set up cross-departmental support.
Evaluating the physical work delivered is very important with virtual work. If there is a slowdown in work or productivity, find projects in other departments in the company — those that may have an overflow of work — that the employee can support. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
10. Implement dashboards with clear key performance indicators.
Dashboards with clearly communicated and measured KPIs create freedom no matter where you are doing your work. It helps each team member know if they are winning and keeps all the teams and management in alignment on daily progress. The hard part is picking the right KPIs and then clearly communicating expectations. – Jon Schram, The Purple Guys
11. Encourage employees to block off their calendars for family obligations.
With many people balancing childcare and remote work today, our calendars are more important than ever. Rather than trying to do both at the same time, block off your calendar when you must attend to family. If you’re making up those hours in the evening, put those into your calendar as well. Your coworkers will appreciate seeing when you’re available and having your full attention when you are. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.
12. Set aside micromanagement.
Set a reasonable timeline with a clearly defined deadline and an expected output. The concept of a remote workforce has been around for decades. We all need to be mature about letting everyone do their jobs while focusing on management, not micromanagement. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.
13. Overcommunicate about projects.
Communication is more important than ever. We make a point to overcommunicate so projects stay on task, deadlines are met and employees remain productive. We’ve implemented “virtual commutes” three times a week where employees use the 15 minutes before business hours to connect and go over actionable items they must accomplish. Meeting quickly and often allows employees to collaborate and raise red flags. – William Balderaz, Futurety
14. Use collaborative, cloud-based tools for full transparency.
My team of 10 has 30% working remotely and 70% in the office. We have an all-hands meeting at 9 a.m. each weekday. We are all connected via a WIP (Work In Progress) Google Sheet that shows all the projects we are each working on. Full transparency and accountability have been key in keeping us on track. Some days the only communication with our remote team is on our Zoom call. Stay connected. – Jean-Paul Gedeon, JPG MEDIA
15. Have iterative deadlines and reviews.
Iterative deadlines and reviews are a great way to ensure targets are being met. If there are goals that need to be reviewed along the way and these deadlines are clearly communicated, reviewed and discussed, it is easy to ensure team members are staying on track. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management