by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
How much is enough? How much is too much? These two questions are central concerns for managers and employees in our ever-increasing remote workforce. Some managers are reluctant to hire remote workers or allow current staff to work remotely because they’re concerned about workers staying on task.
As Kevin and Wayne discuss in The Long Distance Leader, that’s a pretty easy hurdle for managers to clear with the right processes in place.
For the remote worker, however, the challenge of maintaining healthy work-life boundaries and avoiding burnout is daunting. Without proper coaching from their leaders, it’s very easy for remote workers to turn their homes into full-time offices where the demands never stop. And while that might make them very productive for a short time, in the long run that spells burnout, employee dissatisfaction, and eventually turnover, which negatively affects the bottom line.
Here’s how Remarkable Leaders can keep their remote team members engaged, productive and happy over the long haul.
Use a team messaging site
You could set up a system for your remote team members to clock in and out, but that can create a sense of distrust and micro-managing, especially for salaried employees. It also creates a whole lot of extra data to monitor that you probably don’t care about as long as quality work is getting done.
At KEG, we use Slack as a way for our team members to communicate with each other across the miles. It’s a great tool for engaging your team and allowing a free flow of questions and information throughout the work day. Perhaps the biggest challenge for leaders, whether they’re leading remotely or in a traditional on-site setting, is availability. Tools like Slack create authentic “open door” relationships.
Messaging sites also enable employees to inform other team members when they’re in meetings, working on a project or just going to pick the kids up from school. It encourages users to establish “no contact” times for work and personal reasons. Establishing that mindset is a major measure toward preventing burnout.
Talk with your team about their workspaces
As a leader, you’ve probably already established a clear “work area” whether you’re in an office or your home. You no doubt realized early on the importance of creating a space where you’re “on” and a space where you’re “off.” Lead your team members into this same healthy habit.
Sit down with them and talk about possible workspaces with your team. Where will be the best place in their home to avoid unnecessary distractions? Where is it in their home where they can go and know they’re “open for business”? And where is it when they leave that the sign flips to “closed”? Even if that’s hard because of space (apartment-dwellers might have trouble), you can encourage them to get into an “opening” and “closing” routine. It might be as simple as opening and closing the laptop. When it’s open, they’re available. When it’s closed, the day is done.
Respect the boundaries employees establish
Of course all the coaching and building of positive boundaries won’t make a bit of difference if you don’t respect their personal space. If you’re trying to encourage your team to build a healthy work-life balance, you can’t expect them to be responding to your Slack messages at 4 AM or answering the phone at 10:00 at night.
If you’re doing these things and expecting your employees to follow suit, you’re setting both of you up for burnout…and eventually failure.
Managing and coaching employees in a remote setting has its own set of unique challenges. If you want to become a truly Remarkable Leader in the remote workspace, read The Long Distance Leader by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel. Kevin and Wayne are pioneers in building successful remote teams and have collected their wisdom into THE guidebook for leaders in the remote work world.