Remote Workers - Accountability is Key

Remote work which exploded during the past two years isn’t going away any time soon.   Although many companies are requesting their employees return to the office, the idea of coming in to work five days a week, just isn’t appealing to a significant number of employees.    Per Gallup survey, it’s anticipated that during the next year the amount of hybrid employees will increase to about 53% of the total US workforce.   It appears that even if companies bring back some of the 100% remote employees, a hybrid solution is the best compromise to our current environment.  I’m not telling you anything new that employees have gotten used to the flexibility of not having to commute, being readily available for doctor appointments, children’s events, and general home life activities. However, many managers are frustrated with not being able to access their employees when they need them.   A hybrid of three days in the office, two days at home may provide the best of both worlds.  Some employees also admit that there are downsides to being totally remote.   These same employees are skeptical if they will be eligible for promotions.   Those individuals working from home are not as quick to sign up for a class or take on additional responsibility when offered.   This will hurt their career advancement chances.  I know some employees feel they are over-worked at home since they never really turn off their computer.  However, there needs to be a balance of job tasks, new projects and regular interaction with the staff and management.  How do we charge up our remote staff to go the extra mile in being part of team?   Human beings need to interact with others and get feedback.  Socialization with those who are on our work teams is what makes a job fun and engaging.   Without regular interaction with the people in your work group, daily responsibilities become very task oriented and unfulfilling.   Additionally, consider those initiatives that are intended to be done “when we have time”.   Logically, the individuals who are in the office will be the first ones tapped on the shoulder to pick up this work.  If you are not present, not in the office, you miss those opportunities to be part of project teams which bring a great opportunity for exposure to other areas and senior level management.  Here are suggestions for employees to become a better partner in your teams: 

  • Build relationships.  Reach out for one-on-one conversations with co-workers, introduce yourself to others on web calls if you have not met before, offer your assistance to others if you hear if someone is overwhelmed with their current workload.
  • Take training classes.   With your manager, identify if there are skill gaps in areas of the organization – step up to the plate and offer to take the time to learn something new.
  •  Be available when most of the other employees are in the office so that you are regularly accessible.  In Microsoft Teams, be sure your status is set as “available” as much as possible.

 Managers have been stuck in a dilemma of not finding talent to get their jobs filled.    Therefore, they have brought in benefits such as remote work and unlimited PTO.   Companies who have stretched to accommodate new candidate requests, are now starting to regret it.    Management is concerned about the business and meeting organizational goals.   Companies need employees who are dedicated to getting the job done.   Without a successful and profitable company, employees will not have a place to go to work.    The following items are suggestions for managers to implement in order to hold their staff accountable in getting the work done: 

  • Pin down remote work policies and procedures.   Put a section in your company employee handbook detailing what level or jobs are allowed to work remotely.  Also, have each remote or hybrid employee complete an agreement to indicate which days (normally) they will be working from home and which days they will be in the office.  
  • Ensure there is regular communication with each of your remote employees.   Set up a time to check in every week.  This will allow the manager to ask about accomplishments related to established goals.  Additionally, regular touch-base conversations provide the opportunity to develop personal and meaningful relationships.   It truly makes a difference if the employee feels they have a relationship with their boss.  
  • Find ways to bring your staff into the office.  Hold lunch and learns or after-hour gatherings.  Create contests or group activities where the staff wants to come into the office and interact with the team.  

In summary, both the employee and management need to take steps to include the remote / hybrid employee into organization life and company goals.   Without opportunities to connect with co-workers the company culture, values and organizational performance will suffer.

As published in the Milwaukee Biz Times, January 2023