It’s been a couple years now since the pandemic turned work culture upside down. As a manager, you’ve likely gotten much more comfortable with some — or all — of your employees working remotely. If they’re staying productive, they don’t need to be under your watchful eye all the time. They’re professionals who know how to do their jobs.
Still, there may be times when they need (or want) a bit more handholding than you’d like. You may not always have the extra time to guide them through a project step by step. To avoid those situations, you can encourage your remote employees to be more autonomous. Let them know they have the skills and experience to be purposeful and self-directed.
Need some assistance getting that message across? Keep reading for a few tips on how to encourage your at-home workers to tap into their self-starting nature.
1. Encourage Convenient Collaboration
When you think about collaboration, images of conference rooms and brainstorming sessions may pop to mind. Those types of meetings are less likely to happen with remote work. Instead, consider encouraging your off-site employees to embrace asynchronous collaboration. It’s a project management approach that enables your team members to work together, penpal-style, on their time.
You may have workers in different time zones. Some of them may be early birds or night owls. With an asynchronous workflow, they can accomplish tasks when it works best for them. Be sure to give them good digital communications tools. They can stay in touch with a click of a button, and everyone stays up to date on a project.
2. Foster Trust
The manager-employee relationship isn’t much different from other partnerships. Trust is fundamental. In fact, since you don’t see your team members every day, it’s even more critical. You need to feel confident that they’ll do their work. Let your employees know you have faith they’ll be productive. Keep in mind you’ll get better-quality work from an employee who feels respected.
Establishing that culture of trust isn’t always easy, however. Take it step by step. Start by giving team members small responsibilities and checking in with them frequently. Gradually increase their tasks and see how they respond. If things go off the rails, you can reduce how much you put on their plates.
3. Resist Micromanaging
This goes right along with trusting your employees. When you release your team to work independently, try not to be a “helicopter manager.” It’s tempting to keep a close eye on their every move. Paying too much attention, though, can backfire.
If you’re constantly asking for updates and reports, your employees have less time for their to-do lists. You will slow them down and may cause them to miss deadlines and disappoint customers. Instead, set up weekly calls for quick check-ins. Spend that time going over progress and addressing any stumbling blocks. Of course, let them know you’re always available for urgent concerns at any time.
4. Be A Role Model
Since you’re the manager, your employees will automatically observe your work style. Whatever behaviors you exhibit, they’ll be inclined to mimic. Do you answer emails at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night? Are you on conference calls at 5 a.m. on holidays? If so, be careful. You may be setting silent expectations that could lead to employee burnout.
If you want a happy, healthy, rested staff, be sure you’re modeling the behaviors that will produce that outcome. Perhaps you need to take a step back and set some boundaries between your work and personal lives. Let your employees see you place value on personal time. That way, they’ll feel empowered to do the same.
5. Pay Less Attention To Hours Worked
Dolly Parton didn’t write the song for no reason — working “9-to-5” has long been the norm in the U.S. workplace. In today’s work environment, though, that doesn’t suit everyone. Some people are speedy workers. Others take their time. Ask yourself what’s more important — the hours they spend grinding or the quality of their work?
Ultimately, it’s the end product that matters. If your employee exceeds your expectations regularly, does it matter if they’re not hitting exactly 40 hours a week? Do your best not to monitor when they clock in or out. This lack of clock-watching fosters the trust mentioned earlier and gives your employees some downtime to recharge during the day.
6. Promote Improvement
In every work environment, mistakes happen. That said, it may take a bit more time for remote employees to learn the ropes. Resist any urge to be overly critical or levy consequences. Instead, encourage team members to use their missteps as learning opportunities.
If you’re too harsh, your employees will pull back and invest less creativity into their work. When mistakes happen, take time to talk with your team members and offer guidance. These conversations help your employees build greater confidence in their skills. That eventually turns into growth for your team and your company.
Two things are clear in today’s working world: Productivity expectations haven’t changed, and remote work is here to stay. To reach their full potential, your offsite workers need to feel free to work in their own way. Follow the tips above, and you could have a more self-sufficient, successful workgroup.