How often to check-in with remote employees
Being in touch with our people working remotely is important for mutual cooperation and to prevent feelings of stress and social isolation. But to what extent should this contact be on the level of cooperation and to what extent should it be used for ongoing review of their work, involvement, and results? How much should you check on your people working from home?
When it comes to engaging your people, making sure they feel connected, you can't check-in too often with them. But when talking about work check-ins, the story is a bit different. Paying too much attention to inspection can seem mistrustful to subordinates, tying them up and demotivating them. Ultimately they may become rather passive and reactive, simply waiting for explicit and literal instructions. We thus become micromanagers with a dependent team and we trap ourselves.
Conversely, if we give our people full freedom and limit ourselves to occasional, informal contact, our people may perceive it as a lack of interest in their work or results. Additionally it increases the risk of widening the gap between what we think they are doing and need them to do, and what they are actually doing.
When balancing between micromanagement and unlimited freedom, we are walking a very fine line. What about that? How to do it well?
Let's start with the fact that in remote work, the needs of our people may be quite different from the normal regime. Plus, they vary over time. It is therefore important to agree with each of your team members and set both the frequency and the form of review and convergence. The goal is to be convenient and comprehensible for both parties and have clear expectations of what will happen and when.
That being said, it is important to review these agreements from time to time. The chosen frequency may prove less satisfactory over time and it is thus important that both parties have the possibility to initiate a change of the agreement.
Historical experience is key
In terms of the settings for an individual, it’s a good idea to take into account past experience with the given team member and set the degree of freedom based on various criteria.
What could these criteria be? We’ve got a few for you:
Feedback stands for recognition & appreciation as well
Just don't forget that even with maximum freedom, your people need feedback. If they don't have any for their results and work, they may get the feeling the work was pointless and their superior didn’t even notice it. They may also lack the good feeling from a job well done or a clear conclusion and the opportunity to end the task.
And as part of feedback, be sure to verify that the level of oversight (and support) your people received from you in performing their tasks was appropriate from their point of view.