I’m used to managing my team face-to-face, but now we all work from home. I know some of my employees are putting in less time, since they have a lot of family pressure (such as homeschooling kids and taking care of babies) that they didn’t have before. Others are alone, and seem to be working a lot more hours than they probably should.
I’m praying for each of them. I want to be generous but also fair. How can I figure out how each team member is doing, without being too intrusive? How can I figure out reasonable expectations for them? And how can I balance the employee putting in too much time and the one putting in too little?
I totally get it. I know teleworking is not as easy as it sounds––I recently went back to the office after four and a half months of managing my team from home.
I want to commend you for desiring to treat everyone fairly and to deal with them as individuals with different needs and challenges. A good manager knows his or her team members well (Prov. 27:23). I also applaud your commitment to pray for them.
Let me share a few of my own experiences, several biblical principles that may be applicable, and some practical wisdom as you attempt to navigate these rough waters.
Challenges of Remote Work
Despite the many ways to communicate––including email, text, phone calls, and video chat––it was sometimes difficult to keep in touch with my employees on a daily basis. “Out of sight, out of mind” was something we all struggled with. I read somewhere that it’s the employee’s responsibility to check in, but I felt it was my job to ensure everyone was doing OK.
I’m not sure we laid out expectations clearly from the start. I missed the daily, face-to-face, informal interactions we shared in the office. And remote working required more discipline to stay focused on projects and to manage my time well. This was my daily struggle, so I knew it was difficult for my employees as well. It was especially hard for those with children or spouses at home. In our empty nest, my wife worked hard to not distract me from work, which I truly appreciated.
Proverbs is full of wisdom for the workplace. Proverbs 22:29 instructs us that a man or woman who is skilled in their work will eventually go far in life. Proverbs 27:18 highlights the general principle of sowing and reaping: “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.”
These verses should reinforce your goal as a manager to develop character qualities such as consistency, diligence, faithfulness, and loyalty in all your employees, which will benefit everyone.
Work to develop character qualities such as consistency, diligence, faithfulness, and loyalty in all your employees, which will benefit everyone.
For employees forced to work and attend to children at the same time, I am afraid there are no easy solutions. Biblically, we know that bringing up children is a blessing and a huge responsibility (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4). Many workers have no choice but to work both full-time jobs simultaneously. You are correct that these workers need some consideration.
With these biblical principles in mind, I encourage you to continue to motivate your dedicated employees to work hard, but to not overdo it. They shouldn’t feel they need to work more hours than are normally required because the lines between work and home are blurred. I encourage you to guide all workers to strive to maintain balance between work and family responsibilities.
So, what do I recommend you do?
Spend some time with those employees who are struggling to take care of children while also trying to work. Help them to assess what they are doing to balance work and family responsibilities. They need to figure out how to put in an honest day’s work for a full day’s pay. If what they’ve been doing is not giving them enough hours of focused work time each day, you might suggest they design a schedule that allows some flexibility in their work hours. Maybe they are more productive when the kids are in bed. If their spouse is teleworking also, they could take turns with the children to carve out a couple of hours of uninterrupted time throughout the day. If they are single parents, they might need to consider some part-time childcare in their home during the day.
It is a challenge to confront employees when they aren’t right in front of you. However, asking for occasional updates on projects is reasonable. Discuss their priorities at the beginning of the week and evaluate their progress at the end. You might have them write weekly progress reports, if that seems less intrusive. If you haven’t already done so, set clear standards for hours worked and when employees need to check in. Enforce the standards consistently, and be prepared to modify them as needed.
Compassionate yet firm guidance, as one who is managing “as unto the Lord,” will position your employees for success and will increase the probability of productivity in your organization.