Guide to Managing Remote Workers
Updated: Jun 26
Workers Lounge in Pajamas while Bosses Drive Themselves Crazy.
CEOs visualize their home-based workers lounging in pajamas, devouring Bonbons and watching reruns of Friends and Gilligan's Island. With the exception of some giant, highly structured businesses, home workers do have new freedoms with less supervision. During the best of times, CEOs find employees working at home to be uncomfortable. With the future of their companies at stake, CEO anxiety on this topic is off the charts.
Let's examine how a CEO can optimize work-at-home employee performance without driving themselves crazy.
CEO Need for Independence can Propel their Business but at a Cost.
All of us want to feel in control. Psychologist Abraham Maslow's landmark work in the 1950s changed our understanding of human behavior. Psychologist Edward Hoffman, Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today that Maslow believed "people are motivated by their needs". According to Maslow, the human need for power and control is fundamental.
The need for power and control holds true for CEOs and company founders in particular, who have a strong drive to maintain independence and control. In the early stage of a company's development, a CEO's passion can fuel growth in a positive way.
The perception of inescapable fear such as COVID-19, will amplify a CEOs behavior – so a CEO needing more control becomes more so, and a CEOs needing less control becomes less so.
When a business owner feels powerless, anxiety spikes. To relieve their anxiety they seek options to maintain control. With respect to home based employees, this sometimes includes keyboard tracking software, capable of recording and reporting keyboard entries. The software can track the amount and type of work produced.
On the surface, some might see keystroke tracking software as micromanagement, motivated by paranoia. More likely it's a reflection of a CEO's natural inclination to relieve their anxiety at a time when he/she is feeling powerless. Check out Wendy Clack's article The Spy Who Loved Me - To Track or Not to Track?, published in Procurement News.
An Interesting Client Example
Recently, a frustrated CEO client discussed a problem. For two years, he had been trying to motivate a problem manager - oppositional, poor attitude and disappointing quality. Working from home exacerbated the problem. Out of frustration, the CEO contemplated either installing keyboard tracking software or terminating the employee as a last resort. The CEO and I had two virtual video sessions during which he realized that the employee was not fitting into his company's trusting culture and that installing keyboard tracking software would run counter to the company's values. Seeing this, the CEO experimented with a strategy to empower the manager. He reviewed the company's COVID-19 business strategy and invited the manager to join the strategy team. It worked exceptionally well. To quote the CEO, "he’s totally on board. It’s crazy how well it worked.” Empowering home employees can be powerful.
Recommendations: Your Best Options to Manage Remote Employees
Understand the source of your underlying anxiety. Rather than installing keyboard tracking software, if you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, you might first consider trying to understand the source of your underlying anxiety. Working with a professional can speed this process.
Empower and trust employees. Good employees work best when trusted and empowered. Employees who don't respond to a trusting culture might not be good long term fit for your company.
Add structure and metrics. Think of the mayhem that would exist if we drove cars without the structure of traffic signals. Companies need basic structure to operate well. Too little or too much can work against you. Companies need metrics to measure critical outcomes and goals. It’s important that the organization develop a system to consistently update and review data with the employees. I've seen many businesses suffer from too little structure.
Nurture a culture of trust, support and transparency. Make sure that employees and management discuss, understand and mutually “buy-in” to desired outcomes, goals and strategies. Consider starting a weekly strategy team consisting of key top employees.
Hold employees accountable. It's okay to track results, progress along the way and hold employees accountable. Focus on the results while empowering your employees to use judgement as to how best to get there.
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