June 15, 2020

In the dystopian world of Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984, surveillance systems are ubiquitous to track and monitor citizens in order to prevent disobedience. This has led to a community of disgruntled denizens who covertly try to rebel against the government. In light of the pandemic and economic impacts, many employees are facing the same level of scrutiny from their bosses, while working from home. According to Global Workforce Analytics, with 50 per cent of the workforce telecommuting, managers are increasingly using mobile applications and software to stay on top of their team’s movements and schedules.

The danger, however, is to go overboard by constantly monitoring employees’ productivity, which can decrease performance and create mistrust. Micromanaging also affects morale, causing staff to feel more stressed. Instead, focus on creating accountability and allowing workers to have the flexibility of handling their own tasks. Here are four effective tips for managing your team while still ensuring that they have the autonomy to carry out their jobs well. 

Establish Daily Check-Ins and Updates

Since WFH requires more coordination, it is important to have daily check-ins with your employees over Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet. Slack is perfect for a less formal environment, where employees can chat one-on-one with each other or in group meetings. Have an open communication system to foster stronger rapport among team members to create more harmonious working relationships. Companies such as Shopify, TripAdvisor and Twitter are currently using an online tool iDoneThis that allows teams to seamlessly provide their work updates via email at the end of each day. In turn, supervisors will receive a detailed report of everyone’s activities the next day. This software is not only adept at task tracking, but can also be combined with Slack to boost productivity. 

Provide Encouragement and Emotional Support

With worldwide economic disruption, managers must be able to address employees’ concerns about job security and workflow, yet be understanding that not everyone may fully adjust to remote work smoothly. Do regularly enquire on your staff’s well-being and see if they are coping well with the workload. If need be, express concern in an empathetic manner rather than a high-handed approach. As a leader, instilling confidence in your team will empower them to perform better. In the next meeting, try using uplifting phrases such as “I trust that you will do a good job” to show that you have faith in their ability to execute any given task.

Get Accurate Timesheets 

When you have oversight of the number of hours and when your employees are clocking in for work, you can chart their productivity as well as identify those who qualify for overtime. Apps like Atto or Deputy allow employees to punch in at the start of their shift and clock out during lunch breaks, so you will know when they are unavailable. Insperity TimeStar is an excellent time-tracking software for employers to monitor staff attendance without a hitch, while Time Doctor has more extensive features for bigger companies that require more rigorous tracking. Apart from recording time and documenting tasks, Time Doctor even has screen monitoring capabilities. 

Learn to Slowly Let Go 

While the desire to be more hands-on is inevitable, explain clearly to your team that you may need to supervise more at the start of, say, a new project. Once a clear workflow has been established, let them know that they have the liberty to plan their own schedule as well as the freedom to decide (as a team) on their preferred method of communication. Trello boards are useful as staff can create their to-do lists and tasks. This way, both you and your team can see everyone’s work in progress and manage timelines effectively. Another way to minimise direct supervision is to create smaller groups headed by a team leader. Companies like ROI Hunter and CyanCor recommend using Toggl to help bosses identify the tasks employees are currently spending time on, hence allowing them to focus on more important things without micromanaging.

Ultimately, the key to supervising remote employees is constant communication: do not be afraid to overcommunicate rather than under-communicate, to avoid misunderstandings. A competent leader shouldn’t micromanage, but do more big-picture thinking like inspiring and bringing out the best in their people.