Given the current environment, most of us have staff who have become remote workers. Giving feedback to staff working remotely can sometimes feel like it’s going to be more difficult when you can’t have discussions in person.
In-person you can look into their eyes, read their body language and gauge their reaction. Before the Covid-19 crisis, I’m sure we all felt like this to a certain extent, but now that home working has become more normal, we’ve learned to adapt.
Here’s how remote working can be beneficial and how you can give equally effective feedback:
Remote and home working offers great benefits such as improved productivity, greater work-life balance and tends to be more results focussed. There is less emphasis on office gossip, relationships and politics, and more focus on getting the job done, and achieving targets.
Having the right technology, such as Slack and Zoom, in place can help bridge the missing communication gap and setting up meaningful opportunities to connect can create opportunities for collaborative working and problem solving even when your employees are working remotely.
Set expectations at the start
When employees start remote working it is important to clearly set out their role and any changes, so they are clear about what they are responsible for and what is expected of them.
Start by defining working hours, what is and isn’t acceptable, and when you expect them to be available and on what channels. Have these conversations ideally before remote working starts, but if you are now in the middle, and having problems, do this immediately. Their working life has suddenly changed and If you haven’t told your staff what you expect to happen they won’t automatically know.
Define work objectives and targets
Make sure your employees are clear in advance about what is expected of them by clearly defining objectives. Be as specific as you can. This might include defining the quality of their output, the quantity of their output, and timescales. Think about breaking down objectives or projects into smaller tasks, which will allow you more easily to monitor progress and give feedback along the way.
Having clear objectives will enable you to provide specific feedback if they fall short of their targets.
Have regular meetings to discuss tasks
Set-up meetings to talk through the detail of the task or the work that is required with the employee just as you would in a normal working environment, so the employee is clear about the task and they have the opportunity to ask you questions. When you have agreed outcomes or projects they will work on follow this up with an email setting out what you have agreed so there is a record for you both to refer to.
Be open and ask your staff to tell you what they need
The best way to find out what someone needs is to ask them. This might relate to support with their work but also support for their personal wellbeing. Most importantly once you’ve asked them what they need and agreed how you will support them, you must act on it, and within an agreed timeframe. That way you build trust and they will feel like they can come to you in the future if they have a problem.
Think about how you communicate
Allow time in the day for communication. Now most of use are remote workers in our own homes it shouldn’t be all work, work, work. Teammates will still need to collaborate on projects, so it’s important to choose the appropriate form of communication for the discussion taking place. Some examples of this are:
- Virtual team or project meetings – a good way of building shared purpose and sharing broader messages or agreeing on actions.
- Individual discussions by video call – provide better opportunities to gauge reactions and pick up on non-verbal cues when giving individual feedback and most closely replicate face-to-face discussions.
- Telephone calls – useful for asking quick questions and connecting with your employees to check in about their wellbeing. Phone calls take less energy than Zoom meetings as they don’t require you to be as “on” and can feel less formal.
- Email – we suggest always using email to follow-up discussions with agreed actions.
- Internal messaging systems e.g. Slack – useful for encouraging collaboration and team support.
- Virtual social gatherings – creates opportunities for team bonding and can promote wellbeing.
Think about your individual team members and what works best for them – this might mean altering the frequency of contact and the method of contact for individuals to get the best out of them.
Keep it social!
It’s equally vital to encourage collaboration between team members and carve out time for your employees to talk to each other. Once upon a time, most of your employees shared an office space and sat together in a far more social environment and many people will miss this human interaction. There are likely to be fewer spontaneous discussions or those ‘watercooler’ moments.
Think about how you can create and encourage opportunities for informal exchanges to happen and encourage discussion between team members, including picking up the phone to speak to each other.
At citrus HR we have informal Zoom coffee break chats that managers sometimes attend and other times just let the staff chit chat and catch-up and it works really well.
Focus on outcomes and outputs
Often touted as the main benefit of remote working is the ability to focus on results because the trappings of office life are no longer there to get in the way. No office politics, no micro-management and no clock-watching.
Remote working then becomes about output and results and not how many hours an employee has worked, or how enthusiastic or vocal they seem when in the office.
It’s a good time to get really specific about objectives and expectations, and if you then have concerns over what has been achieved in an agreed timeframe based on evidence, you have a valid concern to raise with the individual.
Try to avoid the temptation to overly monitor your staff because they are not sitting next to you. They are likely to be more productive if they feel they are trusted and have some autonomy.
Hopefully, you can see that there are many positives to remote working, and if managed correctly it can actually lead to a fun, productive and ultimately more flexible working experience that gives your employees greater work-life balance.
How we can help
If you need any help and advice on HR issues, please get in touch with the team at citrus HR who have been on hand throughout Covid-19 to help small businesses cope with the new normal. You can reach us on 0333 014 3888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.