Strategy & LeadershipManage remote teams more effectively with trust

Manage remote teams more effectively with trust

All good leaders micromanage, but if executed poorly, this can feel overbearing for the employee. The shift to remote working has further complicated this situation, and therefore, leaders must learn to manage remote teams with a greater degree of trust. HRD Thought Leader Janine Dennis outlines the importance of this, and how organizations can begin to implement better practices.

The power dynamics at work often leave a lot to be desired for employees, and one of the primary ways in which they can go awry in the workplace is via micromanagement. In recent times, this issue has been further complicated, as leaders attempt to manage remote teams.

According to an NPR article entitled ‘Is Your Boss Too Controlling? Many Employees Clash With Micromanagers’, micromanagement is routinely the top complaint people have about their bosses. “In today’s good job market where workers have more options, that’s a bigger problem for employers,” it said.

Micromanagement at work pre-pandemic looked like employees not being trusted to do their jobs, and often presented as hostility. It goes without saying that there needs to be checks and balances in the workplace, but when that evolves into a need to exert power and prowess over your employees, it can be damaging for morale, productivity and overall culture.

Consider that this flavor of management was prevalent in a time where employees were operating in a physical workspace. With many offices forced to close due to COVID-19, many employees have had to embrace both living and working at home. The expectation to meet the demands of work while faced with the push and pull of life has lead to people reporting longer working hours, and a bigger discussion about mental health and cultivating more balance in our days.

Where the naked eye cannot mark productivity there are now companies using a variety of technologies to keep a digital eye on employees from a distance. One such technology is called Time Doctor. This tool downloads video of the employees’ screens while they work and uses a webcam to capture an image of them every ten minutes. An anonymous interview via NPR further cites that if you are idle for 60 seconds, the employee will be prompted to get back to work, making a simple bathroom break cause for anxiety.

Currently, work is ridden with stressors related to both operational and societal factors. The employee-employer relationship is only as successful as the trust and respect between the two. The bottom-line dictates that work needs to continue, but with the tenuous nature of life during this global pandemic, it is necessary that leaders manage remote teams by employing healthy ways of ensuring the execution of jobs ,while also empowering employees from the comfort of their homes. Below are three tips for leaders to manage remote teams without resorting to parent tactics that would serve to erode your relationship with employees:

Your employees are adults – treat them that way

When you hired your employees, you were fairly confident that they had the ability to perform the job role they were filling. You must then question why it is that, with work being carried out from a distance, there is a skepticism  that they won’t be able to perform if they are not micromanaged. It is time we assume that our employees want to do their best. Treat your people like adults and they will respect your for giving them breathing room to do the thing you hired them to do.

Abandon pre-conceived notions of what it means to be productive

Is the goal for the work to get done or for the work to be done by some conventional method that adheres to an old way of doing things? What we hope for is for the work to be done thoroughly, properly, and in a timely manner. It doesn’t much matter if your employee takes fifteen minutes to speak to a colleague on the phone to vent about stressors of the day if at the end of the day the work is done the right way. Your employees’ productivity should not mean having to be busy plugging away at work every minute of the day. Everyone needs and deserves breaks to be able to recalibrate. Let your employees work in ways that are most conducive to their situations at home and you will get more out of them.

Stress is a productivity killer

If you don’t want to drive up poor outcomes, haphazard mistakes, work-related injuries, poor employee morale, or turnover and absenteeism, speak to your employees about ways the team can keep each other abreast of the progress of work without it becoming invasive. If you have time-sensitive work that must be monitored, allow for periodic check-ins where you offer support or ask for updates in an effort to help your employees feel like they are trusted to do the right thing.

In a time where the lines of work and life are blurred, we need to ensure that our protocols and expectations have some room for flexibility as we all get acclimated to new ways of producing at work. Clear communication, trust and respect can go a long way in ensuring our teams are resilient enough to tackle another day of work and life. Our job as leaders is to give them the tools that they need to do that without adding extra pressure to an already chaotic ecosystem.

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