If you have employees working from home, managing their performance effectively can be very different from doing it in the office. You can’t keep a subtle eye on what they’re doing and ‘catch’ them either doing it well or needing a bit of a ‘steer’ in a different direction, and you aren’t easily available for them to just ‘grab’ with a quick query.
So a different approach might be needed. Here are some top tips for managing performance effectively when you’re not with your team member in person.
1. Communicate clear expected outcomes
Make sure your employees working at home are absolutely clear on what they are expected to deliver, and how. Greater clarity will reduce the amount of daily guidance they need and the number of quick questions they might otherwise ask if in the office. If they understand what the end result should be and what success ‘looks like’ then they can operate more independently and are less likely to need a ‘steer’.
Similarly, make sure they are clear on timeframes for delivery of projects or work tasks, and on when you might want to see a partial delivery.
2. Regularly check-in
Even if you make clear that they can ask for help, some may still not do so – perhaps they don’t want to be difficult or needy, or feel they should be able to cope on their own. Make a point of proactively asking if there are any barriers they are facing or any help they would find useful. This will also help you identify whether your homeworker is experiencing challenges with colleagues from within or outside the immediate team in terms of getting feedback or input from people, or poor communication.
3. Allow them to prioritise and manage their own workload as far as possible
This has two advantages – it reduces the burden on you as their manager if you’re not constantly having to think about exactly what tasks they are doing when, but it also means they feel more of a sense of control over their work. It is well-documented that a high degree of control is a key factor in how engaged an employee is, and in their job satisfaction and wellbeing, which in turns leads to higher performance levels.
If they are prioritising work themselves, they are more likely to deliver at a high level. Although of course you need to make sure they have the skills and knowledge they need to be able to prioritise effectively, so if they don’t have these, support them in gaining those skills, either through coaching and guidance yourself, or access to resources giving tips on prioritisation.
4. Give feedback regularly
As well as checking in to see if they need help or support, make a point of giving feedback on a regular basis. Sometimes it might feel a bit ‘forced’, and less natural than perhaps a quick chat in the office, but getting into the habit of doing it can really help performance by reinforcing the right behaviour and picking up on anything that needs changing quickly.
5. Make sure team members know how to get support
Employees may feel more inhibited asking for help when they are not in the office, and may feel it is slightly more intrusive contacting others. Make sure they know who to go to and what format is best for queries and assistance. Who do they go to if they have IT problems? Who do they go to with work queries? Make sure they know that no query is too silly or small.
6. Deal with poor performance properly
Whatever performance management process you’d normally use for employees in the office will still apply (although logistically it might need some adjustments). Managing poor performance isn’t pleasant but don’t be tempted to avoid it longer than you perhaps would just because you don’t have the issue right in front of you every day – avoiding dealing with poor performance only puts off the inevitable and in fact makes it worse, as the earlier you catch performance problems, the easier they tend to be to resolve.
If you have employees working from home and need further advice on managing their performance, do get in touch.