If my employees are working from home as we physically-distance due to coronavirus, how can I make sure they are not slacking off? I need them to be productive.
One group of thinkers believe the answer to this question lies in remote monitoring software that measures employee activity, such as total screen time, keyboard and mouse activity, physical location, shots of what’s on an employee’s screen, etc. In fact, according to a recent CBC news story, some US companies providing such services have seen up to a 35% spike in inquiries from Canadian companies since the pandemic took hold in North America.
Leaders in this field say that their services help hold employees accountable to their work.
Another group of thinkers believe however, that such “monitoring” can erode valuable employee trust. As recruiters working in the field for over 2 decades, helping companies find and secure the employees of their dreams, we must admit – we happily reside in this camp, based on experience.
There is data to back up this position too. Harvard Business Review, for example, reported in an article that Gallup’s “meta-analysis of decades of data” showed that when employees are strongly connected with their work and their coworkers, when they feel like they are meaningfully contributing to the business, and continuously learning, profitability increases. This comes from higher productivity and better-quality products. It has to do with the neuroscience of trust.
And increasingly, employers today are paying for and benefiting from their employees’ mindshare, more so than their time. If an employee peruses Facebook at some point during business hours, but lands on a brilliant idea at night for a new revenue stream for the company, all while cooking dinner, who’s to say that employee was not “productive”? How does one monitor and measure that contribution to business via keyboard activity or computer screen shots?
Business-building leaders recognize that engaged employees are way more valuable to a company’s bottom line, than seemingly “productive” employees who merely go through the motions, checking off to-do lists.
Still, adjusting to work from home arrangements – with a long-range view – can be difficult for some. This is especially so if working from home is not ideal for someone’s working and learning styles, if kids or elderly parents are home and require tending to, if there are other distractions at home, etc.
So how can we build team camaraderie and trust – arguably, two of most critical factors that lead to profitability in business today while physically-distancing, amid this pandemic?
Here are some tips to improve productivity among teams, all with an eye to increase employee engagement:
- Give your team freedom and responsibility: These two elements go hand in hand. The win-win formula here lies in empowering your employees to be proactive, to think on their own, and to bring their own insights to the table, all while knowing that they are responsible for producing their own results. That built-in accountability to a job well done ensures the pace of productivity is maintained. Then, simple and easy communications focused on updating a remote team is all that is needed to keep everyone on the same page.
- Make sure you’ve been in their shoes: It is always a good idea to make sure direct managers have been in their team’s shoes, be it through experience, or via deep training in the trenches. This way, they understand what it takes to produce positive results, and they can guide their team from that vantage point.
- Manage by results: Do you and your employees agree on what success looks like, when it comes to productivity and working from home? There shouldn’t be any surprises here. It’s important for both leaders and team members to have open conversations about the results that are required from a job and what success criteria will be used to measure that. Then, no matter how an employee delivers on those results, if they are producing as expected, it’s a win for everyone involved.
- Transparent, honest and vulnerable communications: In previous eras, these types of communications in the workplace may have been considered weak. But we know better today. Transparency allows teams to feel like everyone is in this together, and it can aid them in feeling a sense of control, even in the most precarious circumstances, this the current pandemic we are experiencing today. Moreover, having honest and vulnerable communications, and admitting as leaders, that sometimes, we don’t have all the answers, builds strong bonds of trust.
- Address problems as soon as they start: Working from home is not ideal for some people, and in such instances, productivity may decrease. As soon as a manager sees results faltering, it is important to address concerns right away, with an empathic and solutions-focused lens. Different people bring different strengths to the table, experience family situations that impact their work, and sometimes, to maximize value from an employee, it’s important to move past the status quo of operations, to come up with creative solutions that work for both parties.
If managers believe remote employee monitoring is the solution to maintaining control over productivity, in our experience, we’d say that is a fallacy. A better question for leaders to ask in such circumstances, looking into the mirror, is: Where is my insecurity coming from, that I don’t trust my employees to do the job they were hired to do?
In this context, we think brain-based expert from Saint Mary’s University, Professor Becky Brodin said it best: “Leadership is not wielding authority – it is empowering people.”