Business Trend: Managing Remote Workers
March 22, 2023
2023 Material Handling Business Trend: Members should be steadfast in their commitment to creating and maintaining a healthy workplace culture especially given today’s remote and hybrid work environment.
Managing Remote Workers
In the past few years, remote work has become more widely accepted and is on its way to becoming the norm. Business owners need to adapt to workplace changes and continue developing their teams amid these changes.
Don Phin is an attorney, consultant, speaker and executive coach. He has received many questions over the years, from remote employee hours to managing without being overbearing. His answers to some common questions about remote work follow:
Q: How do you measure remote workers without being so overbearing that you are tracking the movement of their mouse like some companies have done?
A: Nobody likes working for a micromanager! But we’ve all heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” There is a middle ground, and it’s not based on control. It’s based on results. As with any employee, how would they answer these two questions:
1. What are the most important tasks and responsibilities you have?
2. How would you know if you were doing them well, without having to ask me, or without my having to tell you because you understand the quality and quantity benchmarks so well?
When the focus is on meeting results, whether they be framed as a KPI, OKR, goal, or another objective, the role of the manager is to see how they can support the employee in getting there. Address any blockages that may get in the way. Engage in training where necessary.
Q: How do we best onboard remote employees?
A: You want to create a “wow” experience for new employees. No matter where they work. I like doing Zoom introductions with their new team. As for the officers of the company, have them create a generic video introducing themselves and welcoming the new employee. Take them on a Facetime tour of the physical offices.
Remember to conduct an Entrance Interview as close to the date of hire as possible. Discover why they decided to come to work for you in the first place.
Q: What are the considerations when thinking about the work hours of remote employees?
A: As an employment lawyer, my first question is how are you tracking time for age “out of sight, is out of mind.” Rule No. 1 is to stay in touch regularly. Calendar it, or you will forget it. Minimum of 15 minutes per week to check-in. I like asking “how are you doing, what’s going well, what can go better, how can I support you, what else would you like to add?” Keep your weekly meetings with a consistent theme.
Rule No. 2 is to reach out randomly, as if you just saw them in the hallway. How was your kid’s game? Your sister’s wedding? Your vacation? Keep a cheat sheet about all your remote employees. As part of the onboarding process, I like to use a Getting to Know You form.
Rule No. 3 is to brand your culture for all employees. Send posters home to employees. I did an HR Mission Poster as an example. Put things on the poster like goals, quotes, etc. you would see in the entry, lunchroom and hallways. Have a T-Shirt contest. Google cool company t-shirt designs and you’ll get a bunch of ideas. My simple rule with company swag: make sure it is cool enough that they want to wear it outside of work.
Remember this: you don’t have to solve this problem by yourself. Pose it as a question/problem to address to everyone. Be inclusive. None of us are as smart as all of us. We do this together.
Q: What conversations would you have with someone who has been remote for more than two years when you want them to come back to the office?
A: My first question is, have they been effective remotely? If so, why demand their return, at the risk of losing them? We have found out during the pandemic that many workers work better remotely. Where there is less interference, etc. If they have not been effective, that is another story, and it has to be documented.
What if they started by coming in Tuesday and Thursday, and seeing how that feels for everyone? Then you go from there. I can tell you nobody is excited about long commutes to work anymore. Give a reason to come in that day – taco truck, parking lot happy hour, etc.
Q: When/why would you consider adjusting the pay of a remote employee if they move out of your area (a San Francisco employee moving to Boise with 50% of the cost of living, for instance).
A: My guess is they moved so they could afford housing, lower general costs and reduce commute time. Adjusting their pay only defeats their goal. I may offer a bump in pay to those willing to work in more expensive areas, but I would not reduce anyone’s pay. Unless you want them to leave.
Remote work is here to stay. Figure out how you can be great at managing it.
Additional Thoughts to Engage Remote Employees
• Make your virtual meetings more engaging. I like sending out these paddles https://amzn.to/3eXYNGr and https://amzn.to/3EVlohq. You may get the blank ones and then put your own labels on them. I also recommended the book “Engaging Virtual Meetings” by John Chen
• Mental health has been an important workforce concern. If someone has a physical or mental limitation on coming to work the ADA and other laws may be involved. Check out the great Job Accommodation Network resource at https://askjan.org/topics/telework.cfm.
• Create a Fun Committee that includes remote workers.
• Think in terms of both macro and micro. Remember the little things, such as a thank you card or gift for their kid, matter.
• Safety – the home office extends your workplace. Is it safe? A workers’ compensation case was filed because a worker tripped on her carpet on the way from her desk to the bathroom.
• Security – remote workers are a significant cyber liability threat. Make sure they are following all the protocols. If they work on sensitive matters, is there physical security of the home, equipment, etc.?
• Proper equipment – make sure they have a good chair, keyboard, desk, monitor, etc.
• Finally, try to have all remote workers meet in person at least every six months.