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The Keys to Managing Remote Work: Driving Accountability

Over the course of February and March, almost all organizations were forced into some sort of remote work situation. There was no time to set up the proper infrastructure, and many organizations were ill-prepared. Maybe you scraped through the first month, but many organizations are now starting to feel the pain of this ad hoc arrangement.

This series addresses two of the main challenges organizations are likely facing. This post is on driving accountability with a disparate workforce.

The Hawthorne Time and Motion Studies

If you’re not already familiar with the Hawthorne studies, they were some of the most important studies on team management. They were conducted to see what makes people productive. The environment was changed to make it bright, cheery, and comfortable. The workers were productive under these conditions. When the environment was dark, dreary, and uncomfortable, again the workers were more productive than they had been before the study.

This puzzled the researchers. The unexpected conclusion was that the workers knew that the researchers were watching them, and that’s what was making them productive.

The idea that you need to monitor workers for them to be productive has a negative connotation. In reality, people do what they perceive to be valuable and important. If no one else cares about a plan or schedule or task accomplishment, why should the worker care? And so, tracking does not have to be intrusive or de-motivating. It can be a way of saying “What you are doing is important and matters to me and the organization.”

Showing Remote Workers They Matter

It is easier to foster this sentiment in an office environment. The natural tendency in a remote environment is for work to be disparate and insular. This is compounded when stressors from the outside world distract and demotivate a team. With children home from school and childcare, millions across the world sick, etc, it is even more important for team members to remember that their work is important.

Like in the Hawthorne study, sometimes a simple process for monitoring daily progress is enough. We once worked with an executive in Pharmacy Benefits Management who had all of his employees submit the benefit cards they had filled out for the day. He was getting almost 2,000 cards a day in his inbox. He wasn’t reading all of them, but just a regular recording process gave them a sense that how many cards they filled out mattered.

Our next post will cover how to stay connected and in control of projects in a virtual environment.

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