Article (September-2021)


Managing employee performance and productivity in remote working

Chandra Prakash

Designation : -   Director - HR

Organization : -  Biz2Credit Info Services


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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown performance management systems around the world, in different kinds of organisations, into chaos. Some companies have reacted by assessing everyone's performance at the same level, while some have gone as far as abolishing goals for the year. Companies took time to adapt to the new ways of working. Technology became a great enabler to collaborate effectively and efficiently. It also provided leaders with new ways to track and measure performance, especially for teams that had heavy dependence on machinery or on-site equipment to deliver results. As months progressed, some companies started demonstrating success in the new ways of working. Organisations that adopted agile goals, ongoing feedback, flexible metrics, and incentives were able to re-orient their performance management systems and continue to stay productive while working remotely.

Multiple research studies have shown that for most remote workers increased productivity came at a cost of fatigue and burnout. As time consumed in virtual meetings exploded, people were working longer hours resulting in higher levels of stress and anxiety. In remote working, many managers feel they do not have good visibility into employees' performance. Employees may feel more anxious, especially if they must deal with parenting, or elderly care duties and that might mean they cannot perform as usual.

Thus, communication is a key to success in remote working. It is very important for HR professionals to ensure that there is open, transparent, frequent, and consistent communication between all the levels of an organisation. Establishing communications, availability, and collaboration expectations help to ensure that every team member is on the same page.

Not only this, communicating objectives clearly on a daily basis will help ease tensions and manage deadlines effectively. Also, weekly check-ins helps everyone see the bigger picture. Daily scrums and regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings are ideal for keeping teammates in the loop and providing each other with regular support. Many-a-times, employees tend to feel disconnected from their co-workers and managers in the work-from-home model, the frequency and consistency of communication also hold the utmost importance. It is also vital for communications to be of high quality. It is quite time-consuming and draining for everyone involved if the meetings are to be conducted without a proper agenda in place. It is essential to wisely use an employee's time and thereby facilitate work-life balance during remote working. The aim here should always be to ensure the efficiency and productivity of employees while establishing clear lines of communication. Also, two-way communication helps to establish the trust required to make remote working a success for both employees and managers.

As remote working now becomes a 'new normal' in our way of working, a new paradigm of performance management has evolved. Goals are no longer set in stone for the entire year; they will become agile as conditions change. Annual or half-yearly performance dialogues will now be replaced by ongoing performance conversations and timely recognition. The frequency of feedback is key to engaging remote workers.

Therefore, in addition to year-end appraisals, organisations should also introduce new ways of working such as daily check-ins/-outs and regular retrospectives. This is an opportunity to reimage traditional approaches to managing performance. Companies that focus on engaging and inspiring employees by ensuring fairness and helping employees and managers to prioritize work and define boundaries, will emerge with higher levels of productivity as well as satisfied employees.

With proper HR practices in place, remote working can be made productive and managing performance effectively is very much possible and exerts a less negative impact on employee performance. Also, betting big on technology and leveraging its maximum potential can bridge the communication gap and make sure that the remote working model is efficient and effective.

Chandra Prakash