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Taking a Long-Term View of Remote Work


Remote worker meeting with colleagues via video
Image: master1305 -
This year, most businesses had to rush to meet lockdown requirements and get employees working remotely, where possible. By now, most have settled on their technology of choice for remote work and collaboration.
Now it’s time to think about the longer-term adjustments required by these changes.
How will your employee evaluation process change? How do you know if employees are working, or what they are accomplishing? What new considerations will impact employee retention?
Many years ago, my job was selling large phone systems. It required a lot of face-to-face meetings with customers. When I had early morning meetings with customers, I went straight to them without stopping by the office first. At one point, my boss told me that I needed to be in the office at 8 a.m. every day. Upper management wanted to be sure that everyone was working, and they wanted to see people in the office first thing in the morning.
I told him that they were paying me to work outside the office. Meeting with customers was essential to my job. How could they trust me to sell complex, high-dollar equipment if they couldn’t trust me to show up for work?
The irony is that it’s very easy to see whether salespeople are doing their jobs. They are either selling enough stuff, or they aren’t. With other jobs, assessing job performance isn’t so clear cut. What objectives define success?
Today, some tools offer the ability to surveil remote workers, so managers can see what they are doing just like they could when people were in the office. (The management at my former company would have loved this stuff).
But is that really the best solution?
Like me, many workers would conclude that management doesn’t trust them to perform their jobs. This could easily create a downward spiral in employee morale, leading to increased employee turnover.
Even if you utilize a “Big Brother” tool, who has time to watch multiple employees work? If they are in the office, you don’t spend all day with them. How do you find the behavior that indicates a problem? Even if you can ensure that an employee is sitting in front of their computer, it doesn’t always mean that they are producing quality work.
If you are concerned about retaining employees, then you should add the impact of meeting fatigue to your considerations. In a recent survey, presentation design firm Buffalo 7 found that 73% of respondents have struggled with Zoom anxiety at some point this year.
What else should you consider when adjusting your processes to better align with new circumstances? Here is a list to get you started:
  1. Employee evaluations. Do these need to change with remote employees? Do you measure anything differently?
  2. Employee/supervisor interactions must now be scheduled. How often? Do you need to adjust the frequency based on the needs of individual employees? How do you support those who need more feedback and direction? How do you even know that they need more attention?
  3. Will your hiring criteria change for jobs where people will be working remotely? Have you identified any personality traits that will ensure that they can work well remotely? Do you have minimum requirements for their home Internet speed? Must they have a certain amount of technical expertise so they can set up their work-at-home technology?
  4. How will you build rapport among team members and pass on company culture? Video can help, but it’s not the same as meeting in person. Do you need to make any changes in the way meetings are conducted?
  5. Meetings are essential to business. But too many meetings lead to burn out. How will your organization walk the tightrope between getting things done and avoiding meeting fatigue?