“How can managers ensure the productivity of their teams when working from home?” It’s a rather tricky question, and there are definitely no one-size-fits-all answers. This question is all the more important to answer right now because a lot of managers, many having had no prior experience in managing remote teams, have been forced to do so overnight. That said, below are some approaches which are by-and-large known to be effective when adapted properly to the organization’s context. Let’s take a look at what some of these methods are:
1. Trust your employees
Hire employees, who display a strong work ethic, and who ideally would not need supervision in the first place. Agree mutually upon high level deliverables, challenges and approach to work, preferably not on a daily basis, but on a weekly basis.
This approach works wonders in a highly motivated work environment, where every stakeholder has inherent motivation and a strong desire to contribute to and benefit from the organisation’s success. Trust your people to plan their day, put in the required time and complete their tasks. Working from home for a long duration of time makes it difficult at times to completely segregate your personal and professional lives. Timings overlap, responsibilities cross over. It is OK for your people to plan flexible work schedules as long as it doesn’t impact their deliverables.
At Qandle HRMS, we have provided options for the employees to mark their break durations, proactively. This will help the employees, to track their productivity themselves. Ideal break duration can be anywhere around 1.5 hour in an 8 hour work environment.
2. Set, communicate, and track weekly team-level deliverables:
Managers should set clear expectations with their teammates, in various departments. For example :
- Marketing Team, to generate at-least 10 qualified leads
- Sales Team to close 2 deals
- Product Team to start working on deliverables for 1 client
- Final product delivery sign off every alternate week
These overall deliverables can be tracked / measured by coordinating with team leads in respective groups, say once a week.
This approach works when there is a clear set of deliverables, and when there is defined standard operating procedure, to achieve those deliverables. The single most important thing to remember in a remote work environment is that your people need to be empowered. Centralized decision making seldom works in such a scenario. Equip your team with the knowledge and the authority to make informed decisions and trust them to know how to do their jobs day in, day out.
At Qandle HRMS, we have given the option for managers to set Objectives, and Key Results that the employee / team lead can update every week. It keeps both parties informed and on the same page.
3. Ensure seamless communication across various channels
You should be able to delegate tasks or communicate any other information seamlessly to your team members, not worrying about the mode of communication. A prerequisite for this is establishing well defined channels to reach out to your people with. Such channels are crucial to ensure your people are always aware of any new developments in the company. You should be able to share any last minute changes to the product (not defined initially in project plan), or update your teams on any unexpected changes in working conditions and so on. Similarly, your employees should be able to send in requests or update their managers about the tasks they are working on or have worked on.
At Qandle HRMS, we have developed a Task Management module where managers can drop things to do or last minute changes, directly to the respective employee. The employee can view and complete those tasks, and update their manager by moving the card to the respective status (ongoing, not started, complete) bucket.
Further, for internal communication, our Broadcast module enables you as an HR to send company wide communications effortlessly. Persistent notices, in particular, are extremely effective. These notices are present on your Qandle portal’s home page till the time you take it down, so the first thing your employees see when they log in is the notice. The Broadcast module also allows you to send site notifications or emails if you wish to.
4.Track productive vs unproductive time spent by each employee
All things said and done, we do understand that managers entering the remote work environment for the first time, at least for such a long duration, feel some jitters about being able to effectively lead their teams. A lot of this anxiety comes from not being able to keep watch over how their team members are spending their work hours, something which was a lot easier when they could look up and see their teams sitting in front of them.
To provide an experience that mimics this to the extent possible in a virtual environment, we at Qandle have developed a Screen Tracking module. The module enables managers to categorize tasks that their team members perform on their laptops/PCs into Productive and Unproductive tasks. The module captures screenshots of the employee’s system at randomized intervals so managers can check what their people are up to and cross check the productive hours data. The purpose of this module is more to empower managers to have informed conversations with their people than it is to create an environment of constant surveillance. Multiple features like opt-out and tracking pause put the employees in charge of safeguarding their private data as well.
Productive Tasks that a software developer might do include Code enhancement, New feature development, working on Proof of Concept, exploring online about “How to”, bug fix, coordination with team members for misc things etc. while Unproductive tasks might include self study topics of interest, relaxation now and then etc. Employees are entitled to lunch and other breaks, as per a number of working hours, which can not be included as productive / unproductive tasks. Unproductive doesn’t necessarily mean non value adding activities, as periodic relaxation and a break from the regular workflow is crucial for sustained productivity, but tracking it lets managers take care of any exceptionally outlying time spent on such activities.
Make sure you give people enough leeway for them to do creative work that cannot be defined in advance. Staying idle doesn’t necessarily mean non productive time. Allowing employees to focus on their priorities (within the scope of office work) will result in employees being more empowered, and happy at work, resulting in more productivity and passion for tasks that are defined in advance.
5. Recognize and motivate outstanding performers
It is just as important to motivate employees who show excellent performance as it is to have tough conversations with those who are seen to be slacking off. Words of appreciation and encouragement go a long way in making the employees feel valued and empowered. In a remote environment, employees need feedback and validation to fill in the gaps between their performance and your perception of their performance. In fact companies like Apple have made it mandatory for managers to provide feedback to employees every Monday about the work they have done in the past week. This helps in minimizing the distance between manager and employee in productivity expectations, performance evaluation, and ensures employees are on their toes, w.r.t. deliverables expected out of them.
To that end, Qandle enables managers to give feedback to their employees whenever they see fit. Managers can give out badges on a shared company-wide Wall. These badges are essentially public shout-outs and a recognition of the efforts being put in by employees. Again, a great way of letting them know that their performance is valued and acknowledged.
6. Make it absolutely effortless for employees to reach out to HR
It is very important for the managers to keep a channel open, for the employees to sort out issues that cannot be resolved at their end. The role of HR is very important in such a context. Managers should be open to listen to and resolve their employees’ problems or apprehensions with respect to work and personal life, and as a last resort seek the intervention of HR to ensure a healthy work atmosphere. The managers should appraise employees of the avenues to issue resolution. That way, you gain their trust and respect.
Through Qandle HRMS, the employees can reach out to their HRs through Helpdesk module. Employees can choose to notify their managers if required.
There you have it. An effective, if not an exhaustive, list of methods for you to use to better manage and engage your employees in these uncertain times. We hope the list helped and if nothing else, we certainly hope it gave you a base to build your remote working strategies on. Until next time!
Praveena KS | Customer Success and Implementation Manager