Since the inception of this article way back in January 2018, we’ve come to an entirely new understanding of the topics we were discussing here. Right off the bat, recent global events have made a tremendous shift in our understanding of remote work. Working from home is no longer seen as a privilege pertaining to a select few, or a way to procrastinate without getting caught. It’s now a wide-spread movement that is gaining momentum as the days go by, adopted by an increasing number of businesses that probably weren’t prepared for the transition.
As far as changing definitions are concerned, we definitely need to rethink our perception of the phrase full-time. What is really considered full time? Nine-to-five? Eight hours straight? The whole nine to five workday was introduced all the way back when Ford wanted to optimize and humanize the working conditions in his factories.
Does it mean that the same work schedule works best for any particular business? As far as we’ve come to understand the situation, working full time is nothing more than a formal agreement to deliver a certain amount of output within a predetermined time-frame. Expecting your employees to churn their deliverables during the fixed hours while working from home is not really a smart move. It constraints their efforts and puts them in a position where they’re forced to be productive on your terms, not necessarily on theirs.
We’re not here to say that organizing your work hours is an excuse to miss your daily goals. All we want to say is that we’re sharing the stance that many of the CEOs and HR professionals have taken - what works for the employees will work for the business.
And as you have probably figured it out yourself, working from home is almost nothing like office work. Therefore, another big paradigm we need to address is the one that perhaps incited you to read through this article, and probably the most important one - employee monitoring.
A year back, you might have thought that some of the critical questions when it comes to monitoring employees working from home were pretty simple:
Is my remote team actually working during office hours?
Are they procrastinating?
How are my remote employees keeping productive?
How do I track the output of my remote team?
And we’ve been glad to share the tools and techniques to engage and monitor your remote workers so you can be sure they actually work full-time during office hours. However, a lot has changed since the original article went live. We no longer believe that tracking internet usage, monitoring your team’s desktops, and checking when they’re sitting at their desk is the way to go. We firmly believe that transparency, empathy, and collaboration are vital for boosting your remote employees’ creativity and productivity.
This introduction might have taken a bit more than expected, but we wanted to provide a bit of context in regards to the advice we’re going to present. We’ll keep the headline structure as is, but we’ll discuss a more appropriate alternative for each one. Ready to go? Let’s roll!
1. Set Tasks With Deadlines
Yes, definitely. But we advise you to take it a step further. Go towards looking at your work in terms of structure and processes, not just a set of activities. We’ve talked far and wide about structuring your work in our Comprehensive Remote Work Guide, and we advise you to take a look at that piece of content for further references.
In essence, a task is just a basic structural unit of your work, and you can easily assign tasks with deadlines in ActiveCollab. However, without your team fully understanding the entire scope of their activities, every monitoring activity will be focused on one singular outcome instead of guiding your entire team to collaborate their way towards their mutual goal.
Therefore, a good structure is the goal; tasks with deadlines are just a way to achieve it.
2. View Team Activity Regularly
When it comes to remote work, you need to have transparency. And a transparent workflow and goals are just the beginning. Once you’ve structured and organized everything on your end, it’s time to include your team and present them with the bigger picture.
That way, you’ll make sure that each member of your team knows how they fit in, what’s required of them, and what their deliverables are. In terms of inclusivity, each member of your team will know how their efforts fit into the team result, which will translate each individual task into a team effort. Unless your team is actually a group?
Communicating your expectations to the team and seeking their feedback is a given, but including everyone in the review process will transform your team effort to the whole new level. If you truly want your team to work as one, we advise you to check on the team activity regularly and include your entire team in those checks.
3. Track Employee Internet Usage?
No. Definitely not. As we’re seeing thousands upon thousands of teams go fully remote, in most cases working from their own homes, we’re definitely not going to advise you to make this kind of intrusion into your team’s personal space. That’s definitely not the way to go.
Crossing the border between the land of transparency and Big Brother is a gigantic step in the wrong direction as it demotivates your team and puts an unwarranted amount of pressure and anxiety into an already stressful situation.
What’s an alternative? Transparency all the way. Include your team in every part of the planning process, be there for their inquiries, give them guidance, and make sure they know they have your trust. When every part of the process and each task is laid bare, it’s very easy to stay ahead of any procrastination or slacking off without going too far.
4. Monitor When Employees Are at Their Desk?
Hell no! Instead of stalking your employees, we suggest devising a set of rules and procedures that will enable your team to better organize their time so they’re not confined into the factory hours. Monitoring whether your remote team is all sitting at their desks is a final measure if everything else fails. Objectively, there’s no reason why it should come to that.
For example, you can always come to an arrangement where all your team members are online at the same time to take care of any activities that involve more than one person, for example: meetings, refinements, reviews, workshops, brainstormings, etc. Organize these activities in the team time slot, and let your team members organize their individual activities according to their own regime.
If and when your team members start failing to reach their daily goals, that’s the first moment to start thinking about creating a tighter work schedule. Before going there, you should also talk with your team, get to know the issues they’re facing, and definitely get a better understanding of why they’re not reaching their goals. There are definitely more humane ways to achieve the goals of monitoring, and we have transparency to thank for this approach as well. Good job, transparency!
Are you starting to see a pattern here?
5. Supervise Employees Remotely?
Once again, transparency is the best kind of supervision. But not the kind of transparency that requires taking a screenshot of your employee’s screen every thirty seconds. Or, God forbid, installing any other kind of invasive tracking technology.
This is, once again, the perfect situation to position yourself as a good team leader. After all, you are leading a team, right? And here’s how you can bring supervision to a much more human level: include your entire team. Define a process that will enable each and every person on your team to validate and give feedback for every task.
One of the core foundations of every team is a joint effort that produces a mutual goal. Therefore, after including everyone in planning and tracking, there’s no reason not to include them in the validation phase. This is especially good when your team is interdisciplinary, and your team members can give a significant contribution when it comes to feedback and analysis of other people’s work. And if they can’t, it’s a good way to recognize each team member and give them a bit of a spotlight. It makes it easier to identify issues, and much more satisfying when the results are widely recognized.
6. End of Day Report Summary
While working on multiple tasks simultaneously, your team may lose track of what they accomplished during the day. However, your daily summary should not be all about listing the things that were done. It can be much more potent than that.
Your daily summary can also be a tool that will help you identify the opportunities for improvement, outline any potential issues, and show you the steps your team needs to do to either achieve or overcome them.
You are totally free to choose the form of these daily summaries, but a regular team meeting is definitely an excellent way to make sure everyone is on the right track, every task is validated, and there are no misunderstandings.
Make Productivity Simple
At the end of the day, your remote employees will be more focused on work if they know what is expected of them, if their effort is appreciated, and if they know you’ve got their back. It’s hardly feasible for you to personally check in every few minutes to supervise them. It’s also quite intrusive!
The best solution is to engage your employees in a transparent and open-minded manner and hold them accountable for their tasks no matter when or where they complete them. As long as it’s within the agreed time frame. It’s less time consuming, inexpensive, and is the best way to keep your people productive. Basically, it’s all about project management.