The date is March 2021 and it’s increasingly clear that if there’s one thing the much-touted ‘new normal’ will include, it’s remote working. To quote Peter Kay in Phoenix Nights, “It’s the future. I’ve tasted it.” To be fair, his character was talking about garlic bread… But the point is, a lot of people have now tasted working from home. And they like it. Look at it this way, we’ve effectively just piloted remote working on a global scale, and for many businesses, it worked.
And while I’m juggling metaphors: the genie is out of the bottle, the worms are out of the can… remote working isn’t going away, and many businesses and sectors who may have argued against it before would find themselves on shaky ground making the same counter arguments now. For businesses faced with managing a rise in remote working, one of the elements is trust.
Not everyone is trusting
It’s understandable that managers are worried about productivity. If they’ve been used to just looking up from their work and seeing the team, remote working can be hard: What are they doing right now? How do I know they’re really working? Etc. Of course, what these managers are really worried about is their reduced control over how their team are spending their time.
For some, the answer is using technology to monitor employees’ use of their time. As with any monitoring, within reason is fine, expected even. But a recent HRGrapevine article highlights an excessive example:
A new manager has never met the team, having taken on the role after lockdown and working from home started. To manage employees’ time, the following micromanagement measures are in place:
- Notification of drink or toilet breaks.
- A reason is demanded if a phone call isn’t answered within seconds.
- Likewise if an email doesn’t receive an immediate reply.
- Calls and emails from the manager are described by a team member as “constant”.
- Fill in an activity log, and be prepared to justify each entry.
The result is subjective but telling: the employee complaining refers to the arrangements as a “dictatorship” and the manager as, “…by far the worst person I’ve ever worked with and to be honest ever met in my life!”
Okay, extreme example. But it does highlight the importance of trust, and the impact of when that trust is either or not felt or not forthcoming due to excessive control.
Choose another ‘C’
But control isn’t the ‘C’ managers should be focused on. That’s old-school, and while it would be nice to think over-controlling management is a pre-21st century approach, it’s definitely shaping up to be pre-COVID.
If you want a remote workforce that does the job, the three C’s you need are collaboration, communication and coordination. A one-size setup based on control will not fit all of your team’s needs. But a culture based on trust can empower and enable team members to focus on priorities, make the right decisions, and deliver results. How to build a trusting culture in the current circumstances? Here’s a handful of suggestions:
- Understand that when everyone on a team is working from home, they are all working in significantly different circumstances: some live alone, some are in the family home, some have a dedicated home office, some are perched on the sofa.
- Consciously look for new or alternative opportunities to motivate. Performance feedback in an office can be spontaneous, even casual. But those same chances don’t arise when the team is scattered.
- Agree a basic team comms schedule with regular team meetings and individual check-ins.
- Agree some protocols re: what media or comms channel will be used and for what (e.g. maybe with clients you stick to the more formal emails but for the team you use a Slack channel; with maybe a private team WhatsApp group for non-work issues).
- Agree individual priority tasks and duties.
- Working hours may vary. Yes, contracted hours might be fixed but introducing some flexibility where you can (e.g. start early/finish early or vice versa) not only builds trust but often boosts productivity.
If you want (or need) to know more about building trust with remote workers give us a call on 01582 463463. We’re here to help.