Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adopt a work-from-home setup, remote working was growing in popularity. Increased employee productivity and decreased overhead costs made remote work the go-to model for many businesses.
Although working from home is convenient for those who prefer not to commute daily, it has its own challenges. The decrease in managerial oversight makes zeroing in on performance issues at work difficult.
Performance issues at work fall into one of two categories – a lack of ability or a lack of motivation. Fortunately, the principles of managing on-site workers aren’t different from managing remote workers. The application just needs adjustment.
Understanding the challenges remote workers face is vital to addressing the root causes of their underperformance.
This article will discuss five strategies you can employ to overcome performance issues in your remote team.
1. Open lines of communication
Unlike on-site workers, remote workers can’t stop by your desk for feedback, nor can they call you right away, especially if they are in different time zones. Email is the basic communication tool available to remote workers. However, there are times when email isn’t quick or effective enough to convey urgent messages.
When dealing with performance issues at work, you need to have both formal and informal channels of communication available to your team. Messenger apps like WhatsApp are more convenient than email, but your team might find it too informal. A better option would be Slack, a messaging app designed for the workplace. It is less intrusive than WhatsApp and is built to sync with other applications your company may use.
Face-to-face communication is the biggest challenge for remote workers. To make up for the lack of personal contact, you may use video conferencing tools for general meetings, performance reviews, and training. You can even use them for virtual hangouts, team-building activities, or team celebrations.
Whatever communication channel you choose, establishing good communication habits is something you should not overlook. These include designating specific communication channels for different types of communication and “office hours” when your team can reach out for work-related questions. If you have team members in different time zones, you need to work out a schedule that works for everyone.
2. Supportive environment
People have different living situations. This makes facilitating a supportive work environment at home difficult. Most of us saw the viral video of Professor Robert Kelly’s children gatecrashing his BBC interview. Even with a home office set up, distractions at home are inevitable.
Coworking spaces are an innovative alternative for workers who don’t have the infrastructure to work efficiently from home. Short for collaborative working, coworking spaces provide office space and amenities at affordable and flexible rates.
Coworking spaces are also ideal for remote workers because they provide the facilities they need to work at a productive level: High-speed internet, printing facilities, and meeting rooms. Because your workers share the same space, coworking spaces can also help eliminate the feeling of isolation.
A supportive environment isn’t limited to physical space.
Professional development supports remote workers by providing them with the knowledge and skillset to thrive in the workspace. Creating a robust development program will go a long way in minimizing performance issues. Your program should include webinars, in-person and online courses, videos, how-to manuals, etc.
3. A culture of accountability
Prevention is better than cure. The best way to deal with performance issues at work is to stop them before they begin.
Lack of motivation affects both on-site and remote workers alike. It stems from a lack of ownership over their work. To boost employee motivation, you need to develop a culture of accountability where employees feel responsible for the company’s overall performance. This begins with employees understanding their job description and performance expectations.
When going through job descriptions and key performance indicators (KPIs), be sure to cover the importance of their particular role, especially in the context of the company’s overall structure. Remote workers often work in isolation. Instilling a sense of ownership and giving them an idea of their impact on the company empowers them to perform better.
4. Regular performance appraisals
Addressing performance issues at work shouldn’t be left to official performance reviews. Remote workers need consistent and regular feedback in ways on-site teams do not. As a remote team, you see the result more than the process. Setting up regular review meetings will help you identify potential performance issues.
The frequency of your performance reviews depends on the performance issues. It could be that a team member lacks the requisite knowledge to perform their role. This requires different monitoring than a team member whose low performance is caused by unreliable internet access.
When conducting performance appraisals, you should be specific on what needs improvement. Feedback goes both ways, too. Asking open-ended questions will help you gather the information that you can use to improve your processes.
5. Remote work productivity tools
Providing your remote team with the tools they need to succeed will decrease performance issues at work. These tools aren’t limited to laptops and internet access. They include software to help with organization and time management.
Productivity tools, like scheduling apps for work, allow your team to effectively plan and manage their time. They can be used to view the team schedule, request time-off, manage payroll, etc. This is especially helpful for teams with remote members in different time zones.
Organization apps like Trello are fantastic for project management. Trello’s interface makes organizing workflow transparent and straightforward. Team members are kept informed and accountable for their work as Trello shows what’s assigned to them and when their outputs are due.
Identifying and addressing performance issues is difficult, doubly so for remote teams. The lack of personal oversight necessitates a different strategy when dealing with performance issues.
Deliberate and consistent communication is fundamental to managing remote teams. Fortunately, there are tools available to facilitate effective communication and address the causes of underperformance.
Whether your team is newly remote or has experienced remote workers, the five strategies above will help ensure your remote team is working effectively.