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Underperforming Remote Team? How to Get Them Back on Track?

Here are some actionable advice to lead the remote teams and help them maintain and eventually improve their productivity & performance.
Sagrika Mehta

Sagrika Mehta

Underperforming remote teams

Almost a year ago, coronavirus changed the way of our lives and forced us to stay at home.

The work from home that seemed like a distant dream in some companies and almost a luxury earlier, has now become a compulsion. 

This situation has now considerably changed the way we look at the work-life balance and has gradually started affecting our productivity.

This has further led to an underperforming remote team with no motivation to work towards the set goals. 

Reasons behind underperformance of remote teams

Let us take a generic situation. When we work from the office in a 9 to 5 job scenario, we have a clear professional and personal life division and therefore productivity remains in check.

However, as soon as we land in the work from home situation, we tend to get more relaxed. Often, we lose motivation.

This situation has only gotten worse in the current times with no certainty of going back to what we considered as a normal office routine.

The increments and bonuses have also gone down due to the market situation, which acts as a catalyst in demotivating the employees.

The inability to strike a balance between office work and household chores is another reason for the same.

Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 20,000 workers around the world and analyzed more than 50 major companies between 2010 and 2015.

They conducted rounds of experiments to figure out what motivates people, including how much working from home plays into the equation.

“When we measured the total motivation of people who worked from home versus the office, we found that working from home was less motivating. Even worse, when people had no choice in where they worked, the differences were enormous. Total motivation dropped 17 points, the equivalent of moving from one of the best to one of the most miserable cultures in their industries.” – as per the sources from Harvard Business Review.

The employees are mostly disinterested in performing as the additional perks offered earlier have now been reduced. Even the office parties and recreational activities cannot happen now.

There is a constant fear of losing the job which has led to unnecessary overthinking. This causes procrastination.

How to get your underperforming remote team back on track?

Remote work

Pushing an underperforming remote team to perform better is not as simple as it may initially sound. Therefore, avoid any kind of confrontation and have an open ear to listen to individual issues.

Here are some go-to ways to manage the remote teams and help them maintain and eventually improve their performance.

1) Focus on increasing productivity by having a system to mark their attendance on an app or a website.

This will help the employees have a proper routine while being at home and login 8–9 hours of work as per the requirement.

2) Allow the employee’s flexibility to choose their work hours but encourage them to maintain consistency so that the coordination becomes easier.

This will ensure that the employees are not restricted to a time frame and can thus, enjoy the work from home.

3) Do weekly meetings to discuss red flags or to address any roadblocks.

This will help the managers and the companies to actually do an analysis of the generic concerns and develop solutions around them.

4) Also, have a quarterly review scheduled to appreciate the good work done by the employees and check if they are doing okay or need any help.

This will surely keep the employees motivated towards achieving their targets and focus on quality.

5) Organize team engagement activities with the help of the HR team. This will act as a re-energizer by keeping the fun alive and also help in team building. 

6) Try to arrange some online tea and chat sessions over a zoom call so that the employees may still relax with each other and can communicate freely.

This can help them unwind and thus the employees won’t feel exhausted all the time.

7) Introduce screen sharing tools and other effective ways to train your team as the remote work situation is quite new for everyone.

Let the employees give their feedback after every session so that the next session can be better.

8) Do offer some free skill enhancement courses by tying up with popular learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udemy, etc.

This will not only upskill the employees but also keep them moving ahead on the growth path.

9) Organize some casual sessions for the employees to unleash the new talents they might have discovered during this time. This will help them in their overall growth.

10) For effective collaboration, make use of spreadsheets and use shared folders on Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox.

Create proper documentation to help them understand how to use these tools effectively.

11) Ensure that the team members receive their salaries on time. This is highly important as that may be the only motivating factor for some of the employees in the current times.

12) Try to develop a culture of meeting in person at least once a month by taking proper precautions.

Such a step will not only help in maintaining good communication with their coworkers but also give them a reason to step out of their home once in a while so that they may not get too comfortable and become sloths. 

13) Try to talk about their personal problems individually to develop more understanding and address the PROBLEM. Sometimes, not everyone is comfortable asking questions on a team call.

So, the companies and managers must allow anonymous questions or one-on-one sessions.

14) Take suggestions from them and let them feel involved in some of the decisions.

For instance: do not forget to organize virtual birthday parties for your teammates and distribute the tasks among the members.

One person can arrange the music, others can perhaps order the cake to be sent, someone else can maybe design a collage of pictures to be posted as memory, etc.

15) Assign some additional responsibilities so that they feel important.

For example, the manager may give them the task to maintain minutes of the meeting and circulate in the form of a mail after each session as a record.

16) Keep emotions in check. One can never know what the other person is going through at home. So, it is important to not resort to anger. It’s natural to feel irritated, at times.

We all are human beings, after all. But as a manager, one must learn to handle every conversation calmly and professionally.

Design a performance improvement plan 

Performance Improvement Plan

Apart from exercising all the above-listed things, it is important for the companies to have a well-defined remote work policy along with a performance improvement plan (PIP) for the specific employees or underperforming remote team.

This way managers can effectively address their individual issues and train them to improve their performance.

If there is any technical challenge that is hindering their work, that can be addressed this way and a course can be conducted for them in this area.

It would also be a good idea to organize a coaching session on effective remote work, wherein new tools and applications can be demonstrated to them.

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A buddy system can also be introduced. Every underperforming employee can be paired with another employee who can help them get back on track.

This will also ease out the work as the interaction between the buddies can be informal and therefore, the under-performing employee can seek help and ask questions without hesitation.

Termination should always be the last resort as in the present scenario, so many employees are already losing their jobs because the companies and businesses are going through a major crisis.

Even after the PIP and buddy system, if there’s no improvement, only then the employees must be asked to leave with transparent feedback.

Remember, the managers are equally responsible for the team’s performance so it is important to be considerate.

Keep the work clearly defined with realistic and manageable timelines. The managers should stay connected with their teams and not make them feel isolated at any point.

The managers should celebrate small success and achievements of their team to align them to the bigger goals in the long run. Be patient as no improvement happens overnight.

Conclusion:

underperforming remote team

This pandemic has jolted all of us out of our comfort. It has forced the companies to think of alternate ways of working, compelling them to change the game!

It would be good if the companies start looking for solutions instead of solely focusing on the roadblocks.

Communication is one thing that becomes an issue in remote-work situation therefore managers and companies must think of innovative ways to keep the conversation going.

Avoid assumptions. Do not jump to conclusions, analyze the situation and work towards a way out. 

The companies may also recruit an Employee Grievance team to tackle with some typical problems that may need more attention.

A system of providing medical help can also be thought of for additional motivating factor for the employees and their families during this extremely tough time.

The remote work environment can be made welcoming and creative. Like all other sumptuous recipes, it just needs a tablespoon of trust, a spoonful of thought and a pinch of patience.

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