It’s no revelation or surprise that remote work is now more common and needed than ever before. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to render in-office work difficult (if not impossible) for many, remote work will likely remain the predominant mode of work for millions for some time. Numerous challenges come from this shift, so let’s examine some best practices for one of the most important of these: evaluating remote employee performances.
Before we dive into recommendations, let’s be sure of the scope of the situation. As of April 2020, a Gallup Panel report cited by Katie Navarra showed over half of U.S. workers were working from home. Moreover, it’s expected that 25-30% of the workforce will still be working from home for at least some of their workweek by the end of 2021. Clearly, remote work is and will be a major feature of working Americans’ lives for the foreseeable future.
As Navarra explains, “managers may wonder how to evaluate employees working offsite,” and she’s absolutely right. How can you, as a manager, conduct the same quality evaluations of your employees when communication and interaction becomes entirely virtual?
A first step explained by Navarra is regular check-ins, supplementing or taking the place of traditional annual reviews.
“For remote workers, frequent check-ins are more critical as employees cannot drop by a manager’s office,” writes the business development expert.
She also encourages the use of video-conferencing for these check-ins, with phone calls as a reasonable alternative; email, she contends, should be avoided. Its dry, impersonal nature can undermine the value of the check-in.
In addition to finding the right medium through which to communicate, strike the right tone in your conversations with remote employees. Navarra suggests you “personalize the discussion” by asking employees about how they’re feeling, their home life, and the challenges they’re experiencing. This personal approach can be absolutely game-changing for employees, who might feel lonely, disconnected, and/or experiencing any one of the unfortunate side-effects of long-term remote work, such as depression and anxiety. Showing them you are interested not only their job performance, but how they are doing in their personal lives can lessen the emotional toll of isolation and inspire a renewed sense of belonging in their position.
Becky Deans’ suggestions echo the importance of the employee feeling heard and understood, while adding some valuable insight about productivity and the job itself into the task of evaluating employees remotely.
She points out that “Working from home does not mean getting less done, and in fact, it can result in higher productivity.”
To this point, she suggests creating a checklist of goals and expectations for workers, as “the most productive way to make sure that everyone stays on the same page.”
Another worthwhile way to ensure strong performance and facilitate evaluation of that performance springs from their use of the correct equipment. Whether your organization supplies it, or the employee is required to provide their own, Deans stresses how it important it is that “every remote worker…have adequate equipment,”as“…an employee who keeps their equipment up to speed shows their dedication and commitment to their job and the company.”