Managing remote employees brings about new challenges for companies. Working from home (WFH) is more widespread due to stay-at-home rules and fear of catching Covid-19 or other future problems. Companies concerned about work ethic of remote workers are one of their concerns right now. Here are the top problems with working from home and solutions for your company regarding work ethic and managing remote employees.
Problems with Working from Home
According to a recent survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA TODAY and LinkedIn include:
+ 49% spend work time with friends and family, including by phone and online
+ 51% feel lonely while they work from home
+ 37% put more time on social media, Twitter and Facebook
+ 25% admit their productivity decreased
+ 43% communicate less with co-workers than before
+ 31% grumble about having no separation between work and home
These problems and managing remote employees can harm a company in a number of ways:
First, distractions and no direct supervision can harm work ethic.
Second, employees are paid to be productive. They are not paid to socialize, use social media, or do personal activities during their work hours.
Third, these work from home problems can harm a company’s organizational culture. Most companies encourage a culture of productivity, teamwork, and actually working while being paid.
However, by paying remote employees who provide lower productivity and less teamwork, a company sets new, lower standards for its employees. These organizational culture problems could be hard to reverse.
Solutions to Manage a Productive Remote Workforce + Supporting a Good Work Ethic
1. List Work Tasks & Deadlines
Each day, give employee list work tasks employee must complete by a certain day or time. Then, inspect what you expect: See if employee completed the list on-time.
If yes, then praise employee. If no, then offer to help the employee ‘shape up or ship out.’
Harvard Business Review published an article about this.
2. Schedule Appointments with Each Employee
This helps managers in two ways. First, scheduling appointments with employees shows you are serious about keeping communication flowing, even if you and employee are not in same location. Second, appointments emphasize to employee the need to keep to a schedule. Third, appointments make it easier for managers to keep tabs on their workers
3. Surprise Check-Ins
Every once in a while, call the employee on-phone. See if they answer quickly. Ask them what they are doing. Compare their work activities to the list of work tasks and deadlines.
4. Ask Employee about Personal Life & Emotions
Yes – work is supposed to focus on work. But in this Work from Home and remote working and pandemic environment, many employees will appreciate you asking something like this: “Let’s talk about some non-work things. What’s going on with you?”
Listen empathically. Focus on what the employee is doing and emotionally feeling. Do not criticize anything the employee says.
Keep in mind, you may be the only person in the employee’s life who asks about their personal life, and sensitively listens with kindness, caring, and encouragement.
5. Use Technology to Make WFH and Productivity Succeed
Make sure each remote employee has good equipment, connections, file-sharing capabilities, and videoconferencing. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) emphasized these technology tips.
Be aware of some tracking systems limitations.
For example, recently I took a walk after work and ran into my neighbor on the walking path in my neighborhood. I asked them how they were doing and also if they were back at work. They said, “Yes…I’m working right now. Ha Ha!”
After asking what they meant by that comment, they said they logged into their work portal (where their employer can see that they were in the office) and decided to take a 1/2 hour walk with their significant other instead of working on a project. This is just one example of cheating the system and unfortunately their employer.
Solutions: ASSESS JOB APPLICANTS TO HIRE GOOD REMOTE WORKERS
Thanks to WFH, managers now need to be extra-careful when they hire. Managers need employees with good work ethic who are likely to be productive and collaborative, even if they are not in the office.
In my research using pre-employment tests to determine if a job candidate might make a productive employee, here are some test scores to focus on a lot. A good work from home employee is likely to receive these personality test scores:
High pre-hire test scores on
* Following Rules, Policies, & Procedures
* Working Well Under Pressure
* Motivation to Help People
* Prefers to Work in Only 1 Location
Moderate test scores on
* Teamwork & Collaboration
On cognitive aptitude tests (mental abilities tests), you still should prefer job applicants who get the same intelligence test scores as your best employees in each specific job.
Reason: Managers need to focus on hiring job candidates who have enough brainpower to (a) learn the job plus (b) correctly think through situations encountered in their work.
Read my article on Remote Hiring for more on hiring remote workers.
Skillfully Manage Productive Remote Workforce
Managing a remote workforce will be needed for a long time and maybe the trend in the near future. As such, manage in this WFH environment so you have remote employees who get their jobs done in a productive and timely fashion.
Realize WFH presents many new and unique problems for employee engagement, productivity, emotions, and organizational culture.
Implementing specific management actions will result in a productive workforce, a positive corporate culture, and hiring job applicants who quickly adapt and excel in remote working.
© Copyright 2020 Mercer Systems LLC
Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is a business psychologist and management expert. Books he wrote include Absolutely Fabulous Organizational Change and also Hire the Best & Avoid the Rest™. Dr. Mercer created 3 pre-employment tests used by many companies. He also delivers both webinars and live presentations for companies, conferences, and associations.
Learn more about this topics from Dr. Mercer