Updated: Oct 13
Finding a balance between keeping employees accountable and not micromanaging them can be a big challenge for leaders during this time. With so many people working from home, it might seem like managers need to check in with their employees more often since they aren’t physically seeing them work. But there is a fine line between keeping them on track and watching their every move. Here are a few ways to approach this challenge and keep the balance with your employees.
Scheduling regular check-ins is crucial for ensuring your employees are on track and everyone is on the same page about what needs to get done. However, checking in too often can lead to your employees feeling micromanaged and frustrated. Everyone is in a different work-from-home situation right now whether they live alone, have school-aged children, or adult children moving back home. Maybe they are feeling very anxious about the state of the world or they are trying to take care of a sick relative. All of these factors affect how and when each individual will get their work done each day. It’s a good idea to take the time to ask each person on your team how often they would like to have check-ins with you, so they don’t feel micromanaged, but are still being held accountable. It’s very important to respect employee boundaries and not probe for personal details. However, giving employees the opportunity to express any extreme situations they may be dealing with can be useful so you can make notes to cut them some slack or even plan ahead for that by giving them less responsibility if needed.
Set Realistic Goals
During this time, it is important to be more lenient because of the current situation, however, managers need to keep the ball rolling and employees still have to get their jobs done. Holding your team accountable for their actions is very important. One way to do this is to look at the goals your team had prior to working from home and reevaluate them to be more realistic given the circumstances. Communicate these new goals and deadlines to your team and then stick with them. One idea to tie this into check-ins, is to have daily check-in meetings where everyone shares a few of their goals they have for that day and the next time, praise each other for completing those goals (this idea could also be modified as a weekly meeting if that works better for your team).
Being able to stimulate intrinsic and extrinsic motivation during this time is key. People have moved through the transition phase and might be losing steam to push through this difficult period.
There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation can be defined as behavior that is driven from external factors such as money, rewards, or praise. Intrinsic motivation occurs when behaviors are driven internally because the individual is naturally satisfied by doing the behavior. If someone believes they are doing meaningful work and knows they have purpose in their job, they will have much more intrinsic motivation.
To inspire extrinsic motivation, it’s important that employees still feel they have job security and to motivate them to continue working towards promotions/rewards. One example is offering a stipend for employees to invest in a more productive workspace (new desk, printer, etc.) This is a great external motivation that also inspires employees to be more productive!
A bit more challenging, but arguably, more important, is to inspire intrinsic motivation. It is vital that employees still feel a sense of purpose in their work during this time. Many companies are focused on caring about their employees right now, which is great, but it's also important for employees to care about their work. Remind them why their work is important (even if things are slower), praise them for good performance, allow them to branch out into other sectors of work if one area is getting more work than usual (e.g., social media or marketing) while theirs is slower. Data on employee satisfaction shows that “opportunities to grow and develop” is one of the most engaging and motivating things you can offer to employees, so focusing on employee development is another great idea during this time. If work is slow right now, it’s a perfect time to offer them coaching and/or virtual training workshops. You can find more information about our coaching process here. We also have several topics for training which you can find here.
While everyone is still settling into this new normal, it can be a challenge to maintain balance between keeping your employees accountable without micromanaging them. With these strategies, it should make that challenge a little bit more manageable. Keep in mind that your employees will get distracted and get off task even if you are an outstanding leader and that is OK. When this happens, you can point them to some strategies for how to manage distractions, which we have conveniently laid out in a recent blog post.