In the wake of the recent pandemic, an increasing number of companies began to allow their employees to work from home. Years later, many companies have found themselves in the difficult position of wanting their workers to return to the office, to better ensure that those employees continue to be productive.
However, many employees are reluctant to do so and these companies have found out that many employees who are no longer afforded the opportunity to work remotely in their current jobs would rather take a new job that allows them to continue working from home than return to their old desks.
This presents a challenge to companies of all sizes, in that they must now balance their employees’ personal autonomy with the needs of the business. Being that it is much more expensive and risky to hire and train a new employee than to keep an existing one, companies are better off allowing those employees to continue their remote work.
Balancing Autonomy and Productivity
On one end of the spectrum, we have complete employee freedom, with very little communication from supervisors and only a series of soft deadlines and benchmarks that employees need to reach. The other side is complete micromanagement, with employees having to contact their supervisors hourly to give updates. Neither one of these will work long-term and would actively harm the company.
Instead, the happy medium or “Goldilocks Zone” must be established, allowing employees to enjoy the benefits of working remotely, while at the same time making sure they maintain productivity. Much like the porridge in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, the solution must not be too hot or too cold.
How to Find “The Goldilocks Zone”
Maintaining communication between employees and their direct supervisors is perhaps the most important step in maximizing both employees’ happiness and their work output. Management must make sure that the workers in their charge fully understand the company’s expectations, primarily through email, as surveys of younger members of the workforce have revealed that they prefer email or text messages to phone calls.
It’s also important to make sure that those messages are written in a professional manner, which makes training in best email practices essential for both employees and management. No one enjoys receiving a “poison pen” email, at work or otherwise.
Ideally, a communication schedule should be set up so that supervisors can check in once a day with their subordinates. It could be as simple as having each employee send an email around 4:30 PM that details what they accomplished that day and when they expect to finish their current project. This is easier on management as well, as a five-minute phone call for a manager with 20 subordinates could take up to two hours.
Trust, but Verify
In addition to the communication schedule, management should trust their employees to accomplish their allotment of work during the day, although steps should also be taken to make sure that workers are actually finishing all of the work that they should, especially if the goal is non-specific and doesn’t involve work that will be submitted to the company.
Monitoring software is an excellent solution for remote employee management, as it will allow supervisors to make sure that workers remain on task and avoid falling into the all-too-common trap of opening up Facebook, Reddit, or other social media websites during work hours and end up spending hours reading posts instead of working.
In a world where employees working remotely is very likely here to stay, it is essential that companies are able to find a happy medium (or “Goldilocks Zone”) between strict, overbearing micromanagement and not giving them any direction or supervision at all.
Happy employees tend to be more motivated and productive, especially in the era of “quiet quitting”, a term used to refer to workers who have mentally “checked out” of their jobs and only do the bare minimum to avoid getting fired.
With correct communication and verification techniques, employees can continue to enjoy working from home and their supervisors can be assured that enough work is getting done, which will allow the remote work process to continue for years to come.