Hint: If you’re constantly looking over the shoulder of virtual team members, you’re doing it wrong.
Much has been written about how employees can negotiate telecommuting privileges or remote positions. Same goes for the abundance of advice about how off-site workers can keep their supervisors happy.
But managers also bear some responsibility in ensuring the success of remote-work policies and the employees who use them. If you supervise people who occasionally (or often) work in a different physical location, you need to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Here’s how:
Set expectations. Determine how often you’ll allow people to work remotely each week or month, and on which days. Ensure workers can easily access the team’s overall remote work schedule whenever needed. Establish a process for workers to let the rest of team know when they’re taking a last-minute remote day for health reasons or inclement weather. Also clarify how often remote workers will stay in touch with the rest of the team and which tools they’ll use to do so.
Define goals. Discuss with remote workers what tasks and projects they can and cannot perform remotely. Determine how you’ll manage their work from afar. Make clear how you’d like them to report on their progress when working outside the office. Do you prefer end-of-day emails (or Slack updates)? Weekly reports? Task tracking in a project management tool? Keep in mind that people tend to get at least 20 percent more work done outside the office, away from the daily grind of meetings, face-to-face questions and other interruptions.
Avoid micromanaging. Just because you can’t see your staff doesn’t mean they’re underperforming. Trust that your people can successfully meet the goals they’ve committed to without sitting under your nose all day. Pay attention to output and deliverables, not hours spent at the keyboard or on campus. If the expectations and processes you’ve put in place for remote work aren’t serving your team, update them.
Set the right example. Managers — and the culture they cultivate — have the ability to make or break a remote work program. Encourage and support your people to telecommute as needed. When working remotely yourself, ensure that you’re available to address staff issues and questions. Also ensure that your output is up to snuff. If you’re hard to reach when working offsite or not accomplishing much — perhaps because you secretly equate “working from home” with shopping or watching Netflix all day — you can expect the same from employees.
Secure the support of higher-ups. If upper management doesn’t wholly embrace the notion of offsite work, you and your merry band of telecommuters are in for a bumpy ride. The internet is loaded with statistics on the benefits of remote work you can use to wage the necessary campaign. (What executive wouldn’t want to save $11,000 per employee each year?)
Know that when it comes to virtual work, you can’t just set a policy and forget it. Find ways to remind those at the top just how productive your team remains. With management’s continued support, your team just might find themselves permanently working in their pajamas.