Transitioning to a hybrid or totally remote workplace can be stressful for managers because of their perceived lack of visibility on their team members’ daily working behaviors. As leaders, we need to look past our current situation and learn to appropriately measure our team’s performance despite being outside our comfort zone. Doing so will relieve us and our team members from the anxiety caused by our current working environment.
In a 2021 Hybrid Work HR Leader Survey by Gartner, 68% of leaders report that they have less visibility into their employee’s work patterns. Now let’s look at some of the assumptions most leaders have on the so-called high performers: out of the 5,000 workers surveyed in a 2020 Gartner survey, 64% believe that on-site workers are higher performers, and 76% of them were more likely to get promoted.
The staggering bias that favors employees working on-site is mostly unintended, but it negatively affects both the managers and the employees. The managers miss the opportunity to optimally utilize the full potential of their teams. At the same time, the employees working remotely may end up feeling disengaged and neglected despite the overall impact their work produces for the organization.
The hybrid workplace has opened opportunities for technology companies to champion tools that help connect people outside of the traditional office setting. In August 2020, five months after the start of the pandemic, 73% of organizations have invested in employee-monitoring technology or have initiated new practices to track their employees’ behavior while working remotely. Like any investment in technology, let’s make a point that we’re solving problems, and not creating new ones along the way.
Codifying the purpose of technology
Business executives and senior leaders need to identify the purpose of new employee-monitoring technology, communicate the purpose to the enterprise, and ensure leaders at every level are clear in executing these practices. Communicating and being transparent with the purpose of these tools at an enterprise level will help mitigate the negative reaction to this change. It also creates a playbook for managers on how to utilize these tools to lift morale and employee engagement.
Help employees feel seen
Use the monitoring tools to create meaningful connection with your employees despite working remotely. Instead of solely using the tools to watch work behaviors, use the tools to have rich one-to-one and team collaborations. In doing so, managers can quickly identify struggles employees encounter at work, allowing them a chance to provide solutions to those struggles.
Monitor meaningful work
Create new metrics to monitor performance - metrics that focus on the impact the work provides to the organization.
There also are bad practices for employing remote monitoring technology. These include:
Micromanaging has always been a menace in the workplace. Once we couple that with technology and other ways to surveil employee behavior, the detrimental effects of micromanagement becomes even more apparent to employees. Exclusively using the tools to track time online and production volume will make employees feel not trusted, making engagement that much harder to achieve.
Focusing on busy work
These tools make it easy to monitor small tasks and work activities. It’s like walking around your work area and hearing the melody of keyboards typing—giving you the notion that everyone’s being productive. Let’s not fall into this trap. First, it’s false productivity especially, unless you’re managing an assembly line. Next, it sends the wrong message to employees, forcing them to do things that are counterproductive. If they see that “busy work” gets the praise and attention from management, that’s all they will start doing.
Let’s not forget that technology is simply an amplifier. If our method of running our business and managing our people is bad, technology will make that worse and more apparent.
A paradigm shift—quality versus quantity
Monitoring tools make it easy to track quantity of work--# of hours logged in, # of inputs, # of tickets worked—but are those the key indicators of success on which to focus? There may be a place to know and track those tasks, but we need to be more intentional in finding ways to base performance on the quality and impact of the work.
Let’s reward innovation. In our industry, we need to highlight the importance of thinkers and innovators. Doing the daily grind will get us by, but it takes a whole new way of doing work to get to the next level.
Use the monitoring tools to gather and capture ideas that improve processes or introduce new ones to meet emerging demand. The tools also can be used as an open forum to prioritize these ideas and get better collaboration to achieve what’s required.
These tools should not only be used to measure and improve quality of work, but also to enhance the quality of communication amongst employees, especially in a hybrid environment. The “out of sight, out of mind” mentality can be overcome by creating rich engagements and communication using these new tools.
Overall, a manager in a hybrid workplace needs to intentionally shift how they look at performance management and monitoring, and overcome bias to see the actual impact both onsite and remote workers have to your organization’s success.