Remote or hybrid work has accelerated during the pandemic and it’s no news that it is here to stay. However, organizations are dogged by a lack of trust making the entire experience difficult. Microsoft’s report on work trends found that 85% of managers have what they have called “productivity paranoia” and are struggling to have the confidence that employees are productive in a remote setting. Top leaders believe that productivity is lost in remote or hybrid work, even though metrics like the number of hours worked, meetings, etc. have increased.
This proximity bias of traditionalist leaders leads them to mistrust the productivity value of remote workers. The thought that employees must be “visible” to be productive is an archaic concept that is taking the talented workforce away from organizations. The lack of reliance on remote workers makes them disinterested leading to lower retention rates. According to the Future Forum Survey, this doubt is more prevalent amongst leaders of the 50-60 age group.
The deficit can be addressed by building a trusting work environment and setting clear expectations that strive to improve the workplace culture. A NASDAQ study found that working from home resulted in a 13% performance increase due to lesser sick days and better concentration. Remote workers also reported higher satisfaction and a 50% lower attrition rate. A huge merit to this goes to the reduction in commute times that took up a major chunk of a worker’s day. Another benefit is the flexibility to work at hours best suitable for an employee and getting a conducive work environment bereft of distractions.
While these numbers champion the cause of heightened productivity in remote workers, it’s no secret that several managers are still averse to the idea or have a reasonable paranoia. To address this, there are certain steps an organization can follow to keep workers happy and assure the management:
- Set clear expectations
Setting clear instructions from the very beginning keeps the workers and management on the same page and reduces the chances of confusion. Having a grey area in communication leads to a lack of trust and paranoia. This should include the form of communication, frequency of check-ins and form of reach-out. Doing this boosts mutual trust and sets clear boundaries.
- Prioritize employee well-being
No modern organization can thrive without placing value on employee well-being and building a trusting workplace culture. Patience and compassion are critical for a remote workforce to thrive. Understand that the demands of a modern workforce have changed and there has to be an alignment of values. Navigating the virtual space has its challenges and has to be dealt with empathy.
- Avoid micromanagement
The temptation to micromanage remote employees due to productivity paranoia is hard to resist. Closely monitoring employees and asking for frequent updates is not uncommon. To build trust, provide your worker’s autonomy to complete their tasks responsibly. Micromanagement is one of the top reasons for resignation and must be avoided at all costs. Give employees responsibilities and hold them accountable for their actions while focusing on their performance.
- Effective communication
To build a healthy remote culture, employers must train staff on how to maintain effective communication channels. These can range from setting set timings to checking on employees, frequency of check-ins, and letting people know when you’re on a break, etc. Develop trust by setting clear work expectations, standardising performance metrics, and regular feedback. Frequent communication can solve critical issues and increase trust among employees.
- Address inherent bias
A crucial deterrent to successful remote working is the inherent bias that some managers possess against it. Many employees feel that their advancement opportunities will be hampered given the less “face time” they get with their managers. To make employees gain trust in the process, train managers to address their unconscious biases. The performance review system should be designed in an equitable way that doesn’t disadvantage remote workers.
- Create opportunities to connect
Working in isolation can cut off employees from each other and bring loneliness. The personal connections that happened organically in an office setup have to be re-created virtually. Organizing remote events provide workers with the opportunity to connect and share thoughts with colleagues. Leaders must take steps to bring the team together frequently on matters not always related to work. Fostering deeper relationships makes remote or hybrid work a success and reduces dull moments.
HR has a significant role to play in elucidating trust in a remote setup within the organization. The mentioned steps can be implemented to reduce “productivity paranoia” in the management and make the process easier for all stakeholders. To survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world, leaders need to overcome their discomfort and lead their teams successfully in hybrid and remote settings.