With summer comes fun and sun, but it could also bring lots of distractions, especially working remotely.
Kids are home, the pool and beach are calling, but work still needs to get done.
For employers managing remote or hybrid teams, the key is flexibility and having measurable ways to hold people accountable, experts say.
“Understand this is a flexible environment,” says Mari Anne Snow, CEO/founder of Remote Nation Institute, an education and advocacy organization for the remote work community. “Your role as an owner or manager is to hold people accountable to expectations.”
It isn’t about physical proximity or “line of sight,” she says.
“Are you paying them to sit at a desk and be visible or are you paying them to meet objectives and for results?” she says. If it’s the latter, do you really care if, say, between 12 and 1 on a summer day, they’re walking their dog or getting their kids if they’re meeting deadlines, she says.
It’s more “an accountability cycle” and making sure to have check-ins to ensure everyone’s completing their tasks, Snow says, adding remote work “puts a lot more responsibility on all parties to clarify what the objectives are.”
Barbara DeMatteo, director of HR consulting at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates in Jericho, agrees, noting, it’s critical “to check in with virtual employees more than if you see them in person.”
Vikram Rajan, president and co-founder of Practice Marketing Inc., the parent company of phoneBlogger.net, VideoSocials.net and VideoInterviewPodcasts.com, which has offices in Kings Park and New York City, says check-ins are done weekly with his remote employees.
They have a weekly “all hands-on” meeting every Tuesday morning to discuss any issues.
“The whole point of the all hands-on meeting is a review of work more than anything else and make sure there are no red flags,” says Rajan, who also works remotely and has a wife and two small children at home.
Remote staff also have multiple team calls every week, says Mark Bullock, Co-Founder/Chief Operations Officer who also works remotely.
He said there could be added distractions in the summer, but he’s accustomed to working at home. He said having a room in his home as a dedicated office that is soundproofed helps. He also relies very much on disciplined scheduling during summer.
“There’s too much going on in my household to not have everything scheduled,” Bullock says, noting he has a wife and two children at home, a grandchild also at home and is a caregiver for his mother.
Understand employees will have added obligations in the summer, says Richard Deosingh, the New York City-based District President at staffing firm Robert Half International.
If employers can, “they should give employees more control on how they want to set up their week with the understanding that productivity cannot be compromised.”
And perhaps let them start their weekend earlier, maybe having a contest tied to productivity where employees can work a shorter day on a Friday to jump-start their weekend, he says.
Team building over chicken wings
As a manager, let them know they don’t have to hide that they’re leaving early to go to the beach as long as work’s done, he says.
And if you want to keep employees engaged, perhaps plan events that bring them together, Deosingh says.
That’s what Intelligent Product Solutions, a Hauppauge-based product design and development firm, is doing. They typically held summer get-togethers, but they’ve been on hiatus since COVID hit, says Co-Founder Mitch Maiman.
“Given the current state of the pandemic, we decided to reintroduce these events primarily at outdoor venues, with a BBQ planned,” he said. “These events are important for team building and creating human connections, which are critical for satisfaction and retention.”
They also just had a chicken wing cook-off competition in the office in June, he said, noting on average out of their approximately 110 employees and contractors, approximately 60% of those folks work remotely on any given day.
It helps if you can actively involve employees in planning the event, says DeMatteo
Beyond that, while check-ins are important, you don’t want to micromanage remote employees, she says. Rather, when talking to them, ask specifically: what are you working on this week, what can I move out of your way to get the job done and what resources do you need?”
That way you can get ahead of any problems, she says.
You also need to be specific with detailed “measurable deliverables” expected from each employee all the time and especially summertime, she says.
Workers have now grown accustomed to working remotely and are faring well. A recent survey from GoodHire found that 73% of managers said productivity and engagement had either improved or stayed the same with remote work compared to in-office work.