Managing people is hard enough when you work with them, face to face. Throw in the potential technical glitches and accountability issues of dealing with reports who work from home, and your job gets that much harder.
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Last year at around this time, the news buzzed about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban working from home. Some applauded her choice, saying that remote workers weren’t as accessible for collaboration and brainstorming as those in the office; others decried what they saw as a last chance for work-life balance in an age where workers are expected to be plugged into their email all the time, anyway.
The real issue, writes Anita Bruzzese at Intuit’s The Fast Track, is that we manage workers the same way, regardless of where they work. Instead, we should:
1. Know what the worker really does.
At some point in your career, you probably worked for a boss who seemed to have little or no idea of what you did all day, or how you did it, or where your work fit into the company’s goals. Chances are, you didn’t respect that manager very much.
Don’t make the same mistake with your reports. Know what they need to accomplish, the tools they need to accomplish it, and their biggest challenges in getting that done. Set metrics to measure their progress and head off problems before they escalate.
2. Know how your reports are spending their time.
We’re not suggesting micromanaging every second of workers’ days, but you don’t want to set up a situation in which your reports are unreachable at various points during the day. The occasional dentist appointment or heads-down working session is OK; frequent unexplained absences with nothing to show for their time is not.
Some people can take off for hours at a time during the work day, whenever they feel like it. These people are called independent contractors.
3. Connect with them one-on-one.
When you work in an office, it’s easy to pop by someone’s desk and make sure they have what they need and are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If your workforce toils from home, you’ll have to make an extra effort to connect.
Set meetings at regular intervals to check in on workers. This is for their benefit as well as yours. Without regularly scheduled time with their managers, workers might be afraid to mention difficulties or questions. A quick conversation now and then will make them more willing to seek your advice about the little things, before they become big problems.
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